What hate did to Birmingham

In the 1950s, Atlanta and Birmingham were about the same size, with about the same population, problems and promise, John Archibald points out in his book “Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Revolution.” But then, Atlanta fashioned itself the city “too busy to hate,” while Birmingham, “as the world would learn, was not that busy.”

I told Archibald I would reference that line, crediting him, of course, after he repeated it in a speech during the recent National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference in that Alabama city, his home base, because it was both ruefully funny and soul-crushingly tragic — and most of all, because it provides a too accurate view of a cycle that continues, one you don’t have to travel to Birmingham to observe.

Those at the conference got a chance to witness the roots and results of what hate did to Birmingham, how it labeled the city and hobbled its progress, during a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Unfortunately, those who most need to learn its lessons would never have the sense or the courage to set a foot inside.

Pairing leadership with justice: Is that so hard, Washington?

It was an example of leadership and justice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, fresh off surviving a recall vote, was not laying low but standing in front of cameras, signing a bill that would return prime property in Manhattan Beach — known as Bruce’s Beach — to descendants of the Black couple who had been run off the land they owned close to a century ago.

It turns out the very white Manhattan Beach was not always that way; the transformation was not by coincidence, but by design.

“As governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do: I want to apologize to the Bruce family,” said Newsom, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. He then handed the signing pen to Anthony Bruce, whose great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce, had once turned the lovely stretch along the water into a needed getaway for African Americans, complete with lodge, cafe and dance hall.

Newsom wasn’t standing alone, literally or otherwise. Behind stood activists with organizations such as Where Is My Land, co-founded by Kavon Ward and Ashanti Martin, who have worked hard and know that the meaning of the word “reparations,” so feared in some circles, is merely “the making of amends for a wrong one has done.”

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.

What Does the Jeffrey Epstein Case Say About Justice and Privilege?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As more details are revealed in the case of Jeffrey Epstein, the multi-millionaire arrested on charges of sex-trafficking girls as young as 14, there are more and more questions. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who, when he was a U.S. attorney, arranged a plea deal for Epstein, is defending himself and resisting calls to resign. But many want to know more about why Epstein received such a light sentence in that case in Florida, and whether power and privilege played a part.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty. Now, the young women are speaking out – and many Americans are examining a criminal justice system that seems to work differently for rich and poor.