Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David on the Beginning of Black History Month

This Black History Month, I am reflecting on the contributions that Black people have consistently made to our democracy, giving it the lifeblood it needs to survive, this past election being the most recent example. That is why I am calling on myself and all of us to do more than just reflect on our history, but to actively engage and commit to safeguarding Black futures. Our democracy depends on it.

Police shootings of Black people, the rising number of Black LGBTQ people being killed in the United States and recently the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol all make clear that an inclusive, equitable, multi-racial democracy is not guaranteed — we must fight for it. Let me put it another way, in order for the United States to step further into its ideals, we must ensure the survival of Black people. A nation that stands back and stands by as Black people are brutalized and cast into prisons and graves, while white supremacist forces gain a foothold in our government is aimed for a future antithetical to our most treasured values.

What’s worse is that some elected officials have decided to reserve a space at the table for members of this rising threat for fear of losing their elections if they denounce white supremacists and those who inspire them. This cannot stand. Elected officials who welcome support from white supremacists, rather than denounce them are the largest threat to democracy, and to Black lives.

Democracy would then “do right” to ensure the survival of the powerful coalition of Black, Brown, LGBTQ, immigrant, women and allied white voters who took a stand against hate and division in the most recent election by dashing Trump’s attempt to reap further damage to our most treasured values and institutions as president. We must take care of those at the frontlines of defending the world’s oldest democracy. If we fail, we will have reason to lose hope.

We must be the defenders of democracy. During this Black History Month, I invite us all to do more to work across movements to innovate strategies that will ensure our coalition remains united in this fight. And it all starts with empathy. See beyond yourself and see yourself in others, and in that glimpse, see the heart of a brighter future, a heart which we must keep alive as long as we can.