This weekend, the U.S. lost one of the greatest Civil Rights icons in history. Rep. John Lewis died July 17, 2020, and tributes poured out for the long-running congressman.
Congressman John Lewis leaves behind a legacy of racial justice and activism for civil rights.
Rep. Lewis was a major leader in the Civil Rights movement in 1960s Alabama. On March 7, 1965, Lewis led a group of people marching to Montgomery, the Alabama capital, in order to vote. As the group tried crossing the bridge, state troopers attacked the protesters. Lewis sustained a cracked skull during that attack. Every year after, Lewis crossed that bridge on the anniversary to commemorate the fight.
Tributes poured in on social media praising the congressman’s legacy of fighting for justice.
Rep. Lewis was relentless in his fight for justice and for racial equality. He was arrested several times throughout his life while fighting the injustices he wanted to change in this country. The activism eventually led him to a life of politics. The 80-year-old politician was first elected to Georgia’s 5th congressional district in 1987 and he served his district until his death.
On the eve of his death, the Supreme Court announced a decision that barred 1 million former felons from having their right to vote restored. This was something for which Rep. Lewis started with his fight for justice. He fought for the right of people to vote and would always remind people of their duty to vote in honor of those who fought for the right. The decision was a reminder that his fight was not over.
“There is no person more associated with the sacred right to vote in our lifetime than John Lewis,” Michigan Representative Dan Kildee told the Atlanta Journal Consitution. “To be able to execute his vote — to cast his vote for him — is an honor I will be able to keep with me until the day I die.”
Kildee was chosen by Rep. Lewis to cast his votes for him while he was in hospice. Rep. Lewis was ill from pancreatic cancer during his last days serving the people of Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio offered his condolences but used the wrong picture.
Rep. Elijah Cummings died in October 2019 of complications from health issues. People are stunned that Sen. Rubio, who has worked with both Cummings and Lews in the past, would mix the two up.
The very uncomfortable mix up was exacerbated when Senator Dan Sullivan made the same mistake.
That’s right. Two senators made the mistake of posting a photo of themselves with Rep. Elijah Cummings. Rep. Lewis knew very well that this confusion was a long-running issue and made jokes about it in the past. On April 1, 2019, Rep. Lewis released a statement on how he was going to start ming sure people can tell them apart: a beard or head tattoo.
“I considered getting a tattoo on the back of my head, just to clear things up. I tried to convince Elijah to get one too, but that didn’t go over so well.,” reads Rep. Lewis’s statement. “I guess being mistaken does have its advantages, though. Elijah’s younger than me, so I guess being mistaken for him is kind of a compliment. Maybe one day when I have a schedule conflict, I’ll see if he wouldn’t mind sitting in a hearing for me. You think anybody would notice?”
Sen. Rubio eventually tweeted the correct image but not before the damage was done.
The tweet corrects the mistake but is a little too late considering the speed of screengrabs. At least he did take the steps to change the tweet and admit that he did post the wrong image.
Of course, people took the time to turn the narrative and misidentified both Sullivan and Rubio.
Those are fellow Republican senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas. The mix up is an embarrassing reminder of the racial microaggressions still alive and well today. The moment has reminded people of the trope that all Black people look alike and that is something we are hyperaware of in the current political atmosphere and cultural shift.
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