Normally, it would be an honor to have the President of the United States speak at the opening of a civil rights museum, but not if that president is Donald Trump. The words “civil rights” and “Donald Trump” don’t exactly go together, but that didn’t stop Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant from inviting Trump to tomorrow’s grand opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood.
President Trump was expected to be at the public grand opening and perhaps even to speak, as well, but a storm of controversy erupted. Many prominent civil rights figures came out saying that Trump should not attend and many promised to boycott the grand opening events if Trump was in attendance. The NAACP even issued a press release, entitled “President Trump Should Not Attend Grand Opening of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum”, on the NAACP website. In the statement, NAACP President and CEO Johnson further describes, “President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.”
Both anti-Trump and pro-Trump protesters were planning to be in attendance, creating a potentially volatile situation that President Trump’s attendance would only have made worse.
Now a compromise has just been reached – President Trump will be kept out of the public grand opening and he will not speak to the public at the event, either. Instead he will attend a small, private event tomorrow before the public events begin. According to NBC News:
President Donald Trump will participate in a separate private event at the new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, on Saturday morning, rather than in the public ceremony. The decision came after the president’s plan to attend the opening erupted into controversy. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the White House agreed to have a separate event after a series of noteworthy civil rights leaders and speakers decided to boycott the event and local groups planned to protest.
Hopefully keeping Trump away from the public part of the grand opening will now allow the focus to be where it should be, on the civil rights heroes and civil rights events that have advanced the cause of equality in the United States.
Apparently Governor Bryant’s invitation to President Trump was news to the committee that helped create the museum and that committee helped to iron out the problem of Trump’s attendance. According to NBC News, Mike Espy, a former Mississippi congressman and secretary of agriculture who served since the early 2000s on the state’s committee to establish the museum said,”I think this was a diplomatic effort that will help solve this issue. The fact that the governor of Mississippi invited him was sort of a surprise to us on the committee. We didn’t find out that the president had agreed to come until two or three days ago.”
It does boggle the mind that a president who said there were “good people on both sides” at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, could possibly image his presence at a civil rights event would be appropriate. Somehow, Donald Trump never seems to appreciate that his actions and his words have consequences, like being unwelcome at this civil rights event.
It is both sad and embarrassing for our country that we have a president who doesn’t belong at the opening of a civil rights museum. Hopefully he will just attend the private part tomorrow and not make a flurry of inappropriate comments on Twitter or to the press. Hopefully the event’s focus can be on civil rights, not on Trump. Hopefully.