Yesterday, President Obama post-humously awarded James Chaney the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in this country. Chaney, along with Cornell students Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, was a freedom rider travelling through rural Mississippi to register Black voters when he was lynched and killed. He was 21.
Fifty years after his death and just hours after his memory was honoured, we received the heart-breaking (but entirely expected) verdict: there would be no justice for yet another Black man killed far too young. The justice system has failed Black America, yet again.
Last night, President Obama addressed the nation, urging us to recognize the country’s “enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades.” The president is right — much has changed since the summer of 1964.
Yet, much has not.
President Obama is scheduled to honour 19 individuals today with receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award available to civilians. Among this year’s recipients is Patsy Mink, the former representative from Hawaii who died in office in 2002, and was nonetheless so beloved by her constituency that she was re-elected by a wide margin.
Mink is an incredible Asian American icon, most notable for co-authoring Title IX, the landmark legislation that integrated college campuses and athletics for women. Mink is also notable for being the first Asian American woman elected to Congress, as well as the first Asian American to seek a presidential nomination when she ran in the Democratic primary in Oregon in 1972. Mink’s life story is told in the documentary Ahead of the Majority.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!