Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), while stressing that those who think nothing has changed in terms of civil rights should rethink that and walk in his shoes, said “history will not be kind” to the country if Congress fails to pass immigration reform.
Lewis, 74, was one of the original Freedom Riders and famously made peace in 2009 with a former Klansman who beat him at a 1965 march.
MSNBC’s first questions to the congressman, though, were about how he would equate gay rights with the civil rights movement.
“If two women or two men want to fall in love and get married, it’s their business. You cannot have equality for African-Americans or for Latinos or Asian-American, Native-American, white American, and not have equality for gay individuals,” Lewis said.
“…In the final analysis, we are one people and it doesn’t matter whether we are black or white, or whether we are Latino or Asian- American, Native-American, or whether we are gay or straight. As Dr. King said, we have to learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we’re going to perish as fools.”
The civil rights movement of the MLK era, he stressed, “changed America forever.”
“Our country, our people. Our country is so much better. The American people are better. People woke up and said Congressman John, I want to ask you to forgive me for what we did. I hear it in Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi, all across America. There’s a greater sense of community. There’s a greater sense of family in our country today,” Lewis said.
“And people ask me now that — tell me, where is the next step? Where is the next movement? I was not old enough to be with you, but I’m with you now. And then I hear some people saying nothing has changed. I just say come and walk in my shoes and I will show you change.”
When asked what’s left “undone” from the 1960s, he said immigration reform.
“We have millions of people standing and living in the shadow. People need to come out and state them on a path to citizenship. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not just. It’s immoral to have millions of our citizens — some of these young people, the only place they know is America,” he continued. “And I’m convinced that history will not be kind to us if we fail, as a nation and as a people, to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And we should do it now and not delay.”