Cory Booker bows out, Ben Carson backs off fair housing and issues of race recede in America

OPINION — It doesn’t take a candidate of color on a debate stage to raise issues of justice and inequality. But that has been the way it has worked out, mostly.

For example, it was exhilarating for many when then-candidate Julián Castro said in a Democratic debate, “Police violence is also gun violence,” while naming Atatiana Jefferson, killed in her Fort Worth, Texas, home by a police officer who shot through the window without identifying himself. Castro’s words were an acknowledgment of the lived experiences of many in America. He has since dropped out of the race, as has California Sen. Kamala Harris, who chided her party for taking the support of black women for granted.

When science fiction becomes environmental fact, it might be time to worryen

OPINION — How did you spend your holiday? If you’re like me, one guilty pleasure was devouring TV marathons, designed to offer relief from the stresses of the season. Reliable favorites include back-to-back episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and, on Turner Classic Movies, one whole day devoted to science fiction, imaginings both cautionary and consoling of what the future holds for our world.

But usual escapes didn’t quite work this year, not when fact is scarier than anything “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling might have dreamed up, though the serious Serling who introduced each episode of his iconic series, all furrowed brow and cigarette in hand, did signal he suspected what was coming if mankind didn’t shape up.

Hint: Mankind did not listen to that sober sage.

In a fractious holiday season, are there glimmers of hope?

In Washington, Santa’s naughty and nice list will be mighty lopsided this year. Donald Trump sealed his fate when he went after Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for her teeth. Then he followed with a six-page letter, a rant that projected many of his transgressions onto those he has labeled his accusers, targeting Pelosi, again, and mentioning the Salem witch trials for good measure.

Perhaps you have to step away from politics for some relief. Well, not this year, as even escapist Hallmark Channel fare has been sucked into arguments over love and family and the true meaning of the holiday.

It isn’t pretty.

Voting rights, a partisan issue? Yes, Republicans have fallen that far

OPINION — Stacey Abrams has it right, for right now. She lost her 2018 race to be the governor of Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state was in charge of the election, a situation that would not pass the sniff test in North Korea.

OK, that comparison is a little far-fetched, but only a little.

Since then, though, she’s been plenty busy, confirming that, yes, she would be open to a vice presidential spot on the 2020 Democratic ticket and locking down a network TV deal for a drama based on one of her novels.

Most importantly, though, through her group Fair Fight, she has been fighting for voting rights, an issue that’s bigger than one election and always has been.

Despite the GOP talking point that the impeachment inquiry is crowding out important work, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House has been passing legislation, only to see those bills die in the Senate under the strict command of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Last week, another proposed bill joined the list, with little doubt that it too would meet the same Senate fate. The two parties can’t even agree on what to call it. For Democrats, and officially, it is the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Republicans have dubbed it the “The Federal Control of Elections Act.”

Not too subtle.

Double standards for 2020 Democratic hopefuls? You don’t say

OPINION — There is a particular line that stuck with me in the just-opened film “Queen & Slim,” about a black couple on the run after an altercation with a white police officer goes awry in the depressing and terrible way you might imagine. During their perilous road trip, in a quieter moment, he (a retail worker) asks her (an attorney) if she is good at her job. “I’m an excellent lawyer,” she replies, to which he answers with a question that’s really a statement: “Why do black people always got to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves?”

Since the pre-mortems were written a bit ago, it’s time for a post-mortem on the presidential campaign of California Sen. Kamala Harris, who never seemed to quite discover who she was or at least convey authenticity and excellence to enough voters or donors to make a difference.

Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and the bunch apologize. Should black voters listen, forgive and vote?

OPINION — Of course, Michael Bloomberg went there — there being a black church to ask for forgiveness. As he tentatively dips his toe and his billions into the Democratic presidential race, joining a scrum that expands even as it shrinks, Bloomberg, perhaps realizing that the path to the presidency must include the enthusiastic support of black and brown voters, has rethought his enthusiastic support of “stop and frisk.”

“I got something important really wrong,” he told the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”

As New York City mayor, Bloomberg insisted that in order to fight crime, police must have the power to stop anyone judged a potential lawbreaker, which translated to ritualizing a practice that humiliated hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers who were detained, questioned and patted down because of “furtive movements” or some other vague justification. The number of stops rose to more than 685,000 in 2011, with no citations made or charges brought nearly 90 percent of the time.

In her congressional goodbye, Katie Hill worried about letting down young girls. Now that’s a change

OPINION — Katie Hill said, “I’m sorry,” a lot. In a speech that was not quite seven and a half minutes long, that stood out.

With a public impeachment inquiry now underway and a torrent of names and made-for-TV characters moving in and out of the spotlight, few remember that one of the votes approving this step was the last cast by Hill. The freshman congresswoman resigned her seat as she was about to face an ethics investigation after accusations that she was having a sexual relationship with a congressional aide. She denied that, though she admitted to one with a campaign staffer that she said was inappropriate though not rule-breaking.

Pete Buttigieg tries to solve his South Carolina puzzle

[OPINION] ROCK HILL, S.C. — Why was South Bend, Indiana, mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg in South Carolina over the weekend, with a busy schedule that included tailgating at a historically black college homecoming and delivering remarks at an AME Zion worship service?

“To say that I want to be the president who can pick up the pieces, that we’ve got to be ready not just to defeat this president but to guide the country forward,” he confidently told me. “I have my eyes on that moment and what America’s going to need.”

It’s quite a tall order for a candidate polls show in single digits in the first-in-the-South primary, where he is still largely unknown to the African Americans who make up the majority of the state’s Democratic voters, even as his campaign coffers and Iowa poll numbers rise. In a weekend packed with public appearances, he and a diverse group of campaign workers and surrogates, including some from South Bend, were trying to catch up — and distribute those “African Americans for Pete” buttons.

With ‘lynching’ comment, Trump retreats to his racist comfort zone

OPINION — When Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley sent her 14-year-old son, Emmett, to visit relatives in Mississippi, she never thought he would return in a casket, a victim of a mother’s nightmare and America’s shame. A group of white men kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and murdered him that summer in 1955 for the “crime” of flirting with a white woman, who years later admitted to lying about their supposed interaction.

Mr. President, that’s a lynching.

Elijah Cummings, a man of character and the best of Baltimore

OPINION — In the summertime, Baltimore can be hot as blazes with humidity to match. Trying to cool off in a public pool would be quite an ordinary outing for an 11-year-old boy. But for young Elijah Cummings in 1962, it turned into a nightmare in the still largely segregated city. White adults and children resisting integration yelled, “Go back to where you came from” — sound familiar? — to children and, over the heads of a police line, threw rocks and bottles, one of which caught young Elijah in the face.

That day taught Cummings he had rights, he later said, and it made him determined to become a lawyer despite teachers who dismissed his dream as impossible. With strong parents and supporters such as his boss at a drug store, who paid his college admission fee, Cummings fulfilled that dream and so much more.

The experience and the lesson he learned from it told you a lot about the boy who would become the man, a fighter for justice and a leader with a sense of right and wrong, even when there was a price to pay —lasting physical and emotional scars, reminders of work left to be done.