Be the change

The greatest political scandal of my lifetime, present day notwithstanding, was the Bush v. Gore election and recount (with Monica Lewinsky and Anita Hill close behind). News reports of vast voter suppression efforts in the South were commonplace. While devastating for so many reasons, it was made all the more poignant as I was clerking for Thelton Henderson, Senior District Court Judge for the Northern District of California at the time, the first African American Judge west of the Mississippi. Many of us know the stories surrounding Judge Henderson's work with the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to investigate voter suppression efforts in the South in the 1960s. It was 40 years later when I would join him in his chambers while he was reading the morning paper. Dignified beyond compare, Judge Henderson never expressed what I imagined to be utter exasperation-- that "I can't believe here we are again." Yet occasionally there was a discernible sigh; he wouldn't have wanted to spoil my fresh-from-law-school commitment to justice and civil rights. Eight years later in 2008 I visited the Judge and had a causal lunch in his chambers. We talked of many things and of course, Obama. He had a new perspective and we entertained the idea: if not for Gore's loss, there would be no Obama." And for a moment we dared to dream of a new phase; not post-racial but maybe post-Jim Crow.

I have embarked on a new career path with hopes of bringing fairness, respect and dignity to all in the criminal justice system. I never tire listening to Judge Henderson talk about the courage he witnessed in the early days of this civil rights work. And here we go again.

#oaklandpolice #votersuppression #TheltonHenderson #civilrights

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