Rev. William Barber II
Rev. William Barber II

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber is the founder and president of Repairers of the Breach, architech of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign. Together with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, he published The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.

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We Must Go Beyond Trump and Reconstruct Our Democracy

In the richest nation in the history of the world, 140 million Americans are poor or low income — one emergency away from not being able to meet their basic needs. We cannot be distracted by arguments about which president or party in recent history had more quarters with over 4 percent economic growth while Congress seriously considers cuts to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Donald Trump is not on the ballot this November, but the fate of poor people in America certainly is. In state legislature and congressional races, we must ask ourselves which candidates are willing to challenge the lies that keep millions of our neighbors in poverty.

We Will Not Bow Down

Tips from the book of Daniel for dealing with a tyrant.

IN THE BOOK of Daniel, you find the words, “Can the God you serve deliver you?” Here’s the truth: The God we serve can deliver. But even if not, we will never bow down and serve other gods.

Daniel, set during the Babylonian exile, has something to say about history. It explores the vulnerability of people living under oppression. Many of the Israelites found themselves in bondage in Babylon.

There was a king of Babylon named Nebuchadnezzar. He was a mighty king, and when he issued an order, he meant business. Nebuchadnezzar was a narcissistic maniac who made everything about him. He made a golden tower, and he ordered that everybody under the reign of his kingship had to bow.

One day, Nebuchadnezzar called in those he had appointed and the ones he had pardoned, the governors and the sheriffs. He had a dedicatory service for his golden image, and he was trying to make sure that he wouldn’t have to lie about those who attended his inauguration.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young Hebrew men, represent the choices faced by those who must either support a repressive regime or face certain death. Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to bow—forget their heritage, forget their legacy, forget their journey, forget their God, forget their rights, and bow down. He wanted everyone around him to feel less than him, because he had his own inferiority complex.

The name Nebuchadnezzar literally means “one who will do anything to protect his power.” That’s why Nebuchadnezzar built his towers. He built his tower more than 10 stories tall. Nebuchadnezzar put his name on his tower. Everything he built, he put his name on it, because he was a narcissistic maniac. And then he put gold on his tower, and he promised that he, and only he, could make Babylon great again.

In North Carolina, the March Against Extreme Policies Is Working

Image courtesy NC NAACP.

On Feb. 11, more than 80,000 people gathered in Raleigh, N.C., for the largest Moral Monday march yet — challenging Trumpism in Washington, D.C., and legislative overreach in our state. More important than the numbers, though, are people’s convictions: Principle, not party, is the reason why we march. We march because our deepest religious traditions have trained our bodies to stand up in the face of injustice.

Decrying Hypocrisy Is Not Enough

After a year of verbal brutality, racially charged speeches, and regressive policy proposals, Trump attended a black church in an effort to convince African Americans he is not racist. His trip to Detroit with Ben Carson was the photo op that such an effort demands. Though he was shrewd enough not to say the words, the whole spectacle was designed to say, “some of my best friends are black.”

When Politicians Appeal to White Rage

Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Anaheim, Calif., on May 25. mikeledray / Shutterstock.com

Stopping on the campaign trail in Wilmington, N.C., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested that violence might be the only way to stop Hillary Clinton. He spent the following day basking in the shock value of his words while maintaining that he’d been misunderstood. I’m not sure Mr. Trump understands the demons he has unleashed, but Wilmington is a good place to learn.

Subverting Democracy Is Not Partisan. It Is Immoral.

Activists Speak Out on N.C.'s 'Racially Discriminatory' Voter ID Law, Struck Down Last Week

Moral March in Raleigh, N.C., in Februar 2014. EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics / Shutterstock.com

Since the summer of 2013, we have called this law — which the 4th Circuit struck down on Friday — a monster voter suppression bill. It was the first and the worst of many voter suppression measures to pass through state houses since the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision stripped the Voting Rights Act of its power to guarantee fair elections in this country. In many ways, it performed the new Southern Strategy of James Crow, Esq., which attempts to hold onto power as white voters become one among many minorities in this country. It is a strategy that necessarily depends on old fears, racism, and divide-and-conquer tactics.

Turning Tears Into Righteous Indignation

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

Let’s prosecute these police officers fair but hard because the shooting of innocent Black men and women is done in our names. Until there are consequences this will only continue.

Orlando Massacre: We Cannot Let Hate Have the Last Word

Memorial for Orlando victims outside the landmark Stonewall Inn in New York City.

Memorial for Orlando victims outside the landmark Stonewall Inn in New York City.  Christopher Penler / Shutterstock.com

But while we cry, we must also gain our composure and not allow hate or cynicism to have the first, the loudest, or the last word.

We cannot use hate as the path through our pain into our tomorrow. Hate fuels hate: racial hate, homophobic hate, religious hate, class hate, and the rhetoric of hate that drives the terrorist and the mob. The culture of hate creates the actions of hate. It is and always has been a recipe for murder.

Rev. William Barber: Here's Why I Got Arrested

Image via Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Today is the first time I have ever been arrested in Washington, D.C. I came for the same reason Southern political leaders petitioned President Grant to send troops in the 1870s — for the same reason Dr. King called upon Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to enforce federal law in the 1960s. I came because the interposition and nullification of extremists is blocking a Third Reconstruction in America today.

The Racism Lurking Behind N.C.’s Anti-LGBT Law

2014 Moral March in Raleigh, N.C.

2014 Moral March in Raleigh, N.C. EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics / Shutterstock.com

Meeting for a one-day emergency session last week, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed HB2, which has been widely criticized as the nation’s worst anti-LGBT bill. In supposed defense of the general welfare, conservative lawmakers moved to stop a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender citizens to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. But their call to “protect our women and children” echoes language of the white supremacy campaign that overthrew local governments in this state 120 years ago. Both then and now, the call to defend families against imagined predators is a crude power grab.

Why It's Possible to Reject the Klan and Still Support Racism

Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington D.C. in 1926. Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com

If Donald Trump is telling the truth, he only recently learned that David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is an avowed segregationist. Apparently, the KKK and its history have faded from many white Americans’ memory. Jeffrey Lord argued on national television this week that the Klan is an invention of “the left.” As native sons of the South, we could forgive these men their ignorance. (“Bless their hearts. They ain’t from around here,” is the polite way to say it.) But we can neither forgive nor ignore the way 400 years of white supremacy have been naively reduced to whether a candidate will disavow the support of a hate group leader. Racism lives on in policies that perpetuate racial disparities, with or without the KKK.

A Moral Movement to Hold Candidates Accountable

This tenth annual People’s Assembly was made up of black, white, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, labor and civil rights, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, people of faith and people whose moral visions are rooted in reason or politics. Planned Parenthood advocates marched in pink hats alongside evangelicals, singing the same freedom songs. Black Lives Matter activists linked arms with elderly white veterans. The Moral March did not rally around a messiah candidate but challenged all leaders to serve the common good with policies that are morally sound, constitutionally consistent, and economically sane. While a kaleidoscope of campaigns vie for everybody’s attention, this long-term, grassroots coalition to reconstruct democracy in America is a movement to hold all candidates accountable.

The Second Career of James Crow, Esq.

Our lawyers have made a strong case this week that the voter ID component of this legislation places an unnecessary and undue burden on voters — especially poor and African-American voters. We will ultimately win this fight in the courts. But this case is about much more than defeating voter ID laws. It is about a central question of 21st-century American politics: is a multiethnic democracy possible?

We Killed a Prophet in 1968. Will We Do It Again?

Public domain image

Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel introduced Martin Luther King, Jr. to a rabbinical assembly in 1968, “a voice, a vision, and a way.” 

“The whole future of America will depend on the impact and influence of Dr. King,” Heschel said.

Grieving the Past Before Beginning a New Year

New York City march on the anniversary of Tamir Rice's death. a katz / Shutterstock.com

Black people’s humanity is still at question in the stories so many of us hear and tell in America. For many with a badge, a gun, and the legal shield of the state, black men and women — even black children — are not humans. Instead black bodies are threats and targets for rage, fear, and racially justified execution. When an officer of the law exterminates on the spot, we must ask ourselves what he was shooting. In his mind, Tamir could not have been a boy. He could not have been human. What did he see? And who bewitched him (and us) to “see things” when we are entirely sober?

A Politics Beyond Fear

The Value of Fusion Friendships
Moral Mondays March in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 8, 2014

Moral Mondays March in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 8, 2014. EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics / Shutterstock.com

Since the Republican presidential front-runner announced after San Bernardino that he would close America’s borders to Muslims, a debate has ensued about what “radicalization” means and how far we as a nation are willing to go to protect ourselves from it. So-called liberals (and even some in the Republican party’s mainstream) have said, “Not all Muslims have been radicalized.” To this Donald Trump retorts, “Until we know which ones have been, let’s keep them all out.” The unquestioned consensus in America’s public square is that we can only be safe by figuring out who the un-American terrorists are and getting rid of them.

But where we're from in North Carolina, we should not be so naïve. We have a disproportionate share of homegrown terrorists.

Will Evangelicals Welcome Pope Francis? The Good News Depends on It

Philip Chidell / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis on Easter Sunday 2013 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo via Philip Chidell / Shutterstock.com

As evangelical preachers in the American South, we’re excited to welcome our brother, Pope Francis, to the U.S.

We want to be explicit in our evangelical welcome because so many who claim to be evangelical are criticizing the pope for being political and not preaching orthodox theology.

Why I Marched on McDonald's

Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, consults with Shyrl Hinnant Uzzell. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

Recently, I marched with McDonald’s workers from three dozen cities to the company’s corporate headquarters outside of Chicago. After they refused to leave the corporate campus of the fast-food giant with its $5.6 billion in profits last year, 101 workers were arrested.

I knew I had to come when the workers invited me to share some of the lessons we have been learning in North Carolina about civil disobedience — and moral support.

I watched my new friends sit down. I watched the police gather. I prayed with the McDonald’s workers as the police looked on and then slapped plastic handcuffs on more than 100 of the workers and arrested them.

I could not help but think of the historic arc of the civil rights movement. For all the gains we have been making, the treatment of low-paid workers by some of the most profitable corporations in the world ranks high in the more significant causes of the growing inequalities in the U.S.