2017 was a year to remember on the national level, from a contentious new president to a sexual harassment awareness that toppled powerful men. Race relations took a hit when white supremacist groups marched in Charlottesville. Houston wasn’t the only city devastated by a hurricane, as parts of Florida and U.S. territories in the Caribbean were damaged by powerful storms. The Defender takes a look at the top 10 national stories.
On Jan. 20, the nation’s first Black president – and one of the most popular presidents of our time – stepped down and turned the reigns over to Republican Donald Trump, a businessman and reality TV star. President Obama immediately took his wife Michelle on an extended and restful vacation. Trump’s presidency proceeded to become a rollercoaster ride, with few legislative accomplishments, controversial tweets, constant senior staff changes and lingering questions about involvement with Russia.
Obamacare threat thwarted
Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Congress has been deeply divided over Obamacare. Lawmakers opposed to specific provisions in the ACA or the entire law have repeatedly debated its implementation and considered bills to repeal, defund, delay, or otherwise amend the law. President Trump made it a priority to repeal Obamacare but so far has been unsuccessful, though he has managed to squeeze in a repeal of some parts in the GOP tax bill.
Sexual misconduct topples men
Dozens of women, including several A-list actresses, came out in force in October and November to blast studio executive Harvey Weinstein, claiming he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Actress Lupita Nyong’o was among those who said they were victims of unwanted advances. The Weinstein scandal was the snowball that caused other women to come out. Black men such as Congressman John Conyers, Russell Simmons and Tavis Smiley were all hit with sexual misconduct allegations that impacted their jobs. In Alabama, Black women voters contributed to the December defeat of Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of preying on young girls.
#MeToo movement takes off
The #MeToo movement spread virally as a two-word hashtag used on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment against women. The phrase, long used by African-American social activist Tarana Burke, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to tweet it to publicize experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior. Since then, millions of people have used the hashtag to come forward with their experiences, including many celebrities.
Whites march on Charlottesville
Also known as the Unite the Right rally, the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., left one dead and more than 30 injured after a speeding car slammed into counter-protesters. Protesters included white supremacists and nationalists, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klansmen, neo-Nazis and various militias. In his initial statement on the rally, President Trump did not denounce white nationalists explicitly, instead condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” His statement and his subsequent defenses of it were seen by critics as implying moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested against them.
Hurricanes Irma, Maria strike
Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Caribbean and Florida in September, was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It was the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. The death toll was 102, including 75 in Florida. Damage from the disaster totaled $51 million in Orange County, Fla. It was followed by Hurricane Maria, which was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico, and caused catastrophic damage and triggered a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.
Soldier dies, drama unfolds
On Oct. 3, 12 soldiers from the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group accompanied 30 Nigerien soldiers on a reconnaissance mission in Niger, which ended in a deadly ambush. The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was later found by children tending cattle and was nearly a mile away from the scene of the ambush. The case sparked further controversy when Johnson’s widow said she was angered by a sympathy call from President Trump, who couldn’t remember her husband’s name. The account was confirmed by Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was in the car when Trump called. She said the call was upsetting to the family and ignited a firestorm among Trump loyalists.
Shooting in Las Vegas
A three-day country music festival in Las Vegas erupted in chaos in October when a gunman began firing down onto the crowd of roughly 25,000 people. After a flurry of gunshots, which went on for more than 10 minutes, finally ended, 58 people were dead and over 500 were injured. It was the worst mass shooting in United States history. The gunman, who was firing from his room on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, took his own life.
Black immigrants concerned
While much of the attention paid to President’s Trump’s move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) decision focused on Hispanic recipients, Black immigrants are facing consequences as well. There are more than 575,000 Black undocumented immigrants in the United States. Also in 2017, the Trump administration moved forward with its decision to end a temporary residency permit program that allowed almost 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the U.S. since a 2010 powerful earthquake shook the Caribbean nation.
NAACP gets new leader
The NAACP named Derrick Johnson president and CEO, replacing Cornell William Brooks. Johnson’s appointment came at a time of increased racial tension in the U.S. In response, the NAACP – which at 108 is the nation’s oldest and largest non-partisan civil rights organization – has been going through leadership changes “as it re-envisions itself to take on a tumultuous and contentious social and political climate.” Johnson said the NAACP would focus on increasing both voter and education access.