Editorials

Those who boycotted the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum only hurt themselves

Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights activist and widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, says if the state can rise to the occasion, then ‘the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.’
Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights activist and widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, says if the state can rise to the occasion, then ‘the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.’ AP File

We disagree with the elected officials who boycotted the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

We understand those who chose not to appear at the opening did so because they disagree with President Donald Trump. They believe his policies will set back the civil rights movement and cause harm to the lives of those in the minority.

But why they would allow this disagreement to deprive themselves of the opportunity to stand before a crowd and voice their concerns? In that respect, the president won. He, in effect, silenced, or at least muted, their voices.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, wouldn’t be silenced so easily.

“Go tell it on the mountain that Mississippi has two museums linked together in love, in hope, and in justice,” she said.

Did the boycotters expect Gov. Phil Bryant not to invite the leader of his party to join him at the museum? We would have been shocked if he hadn’t.

The family of slain voting rights leader Vernon Dahmer knew the importance of being there. They shunned Trump, but they stayed for the public opening, where Dahmer’s son Dennis spoke.

“It’s a great day for Mississippi,” Dennis Dahmer said. “I never thought I’d see a museum have what I consider a factual telling of the story of the civil rights movement in the state of Mississippi.”

We cannot imagine someone who needs to see those two museums more than Trump. And clearly, visiting and speaking caused the president to reflect on his, and the country’s, civil rights record.

He delivered a speech devoid of the fiery rhetoric that made Trump famous. Not once did he venture into the land of the outrageous as he has at other solemn events. We know that Trump bristles at the slightest criticism, and we know that Trump knew that he would face criticism. Organizers kept his visit short and sweet and largely out of the public eye.

He didn’t see the protesters gathered to turn their backs on him and take a knee. They were kept some distance away from the ceremony. We suspect he knew they were there. Perhaps he felt their presence.

So those who chose to come to the unveiling of these glorious museums were the true winners. Trump couldn’t keep them away.

But those elected leaders, those civil rights leaders who chose to stay away, ceded the playing field to Trump. They chose to level their criticism from afar in the hopes the media would carry the message to Trump. They chose to let others speak for them. Myrlie Evers-Williams did, and she spoke eloquently.

“Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans,” she said. “If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.”

All our leaders should have risen to this occasion.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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