Today Black Lives Matter has fostered a world-wide movement for an end to racial injustice. The death of George Lloyd illuminated the fact of institutionalized racism in the U.S. The difference is that the movement is not going away. Journey back with me into the 90s, when the nation was accustomed to looking the other way. The following column, my second, was published October 13, 1991.
A friend warned me of an ominous local sighting of a pickup truck with the letters “KKK” painted boldly on its doors, a testament to the recent acceleration of hate crimes. These crimes are not limited to Blacks. Other minorities have also been targeted. But the primary target of what is being termed by some as the “new racism” is the African-American.
Some politically astute individuals see these acts as a direct result of the laissez-faire attitude of the Bush administration toward domestic disasters occurring in the wake of its economic policies. Affirmative action programs benefitting certain Black professionals and students are being criticized as “giveaway programs.” What is not publicized is that many Blacks, myself included, attended college when affirmative action programs were in effect without benefit from such assistance programs.
In this month’s issue of Ebony magazine, Dr. Charles Moody, vice provost of minority affairs at the University of Michigan, asserts that we must dispel the notion that affirmative action is a badge of dishonor, adding “We must also let it be known that not every student of color is a special admit, and not every white student has a 4.00 grade-point average and 1600 (score) on the SAT.”
Can 400 years of racism be wiped away by 20 years ‘ affirmative action? The comparatively small percentage of minorities who benefit from such programs have no more impact upon the total picture of education and employment in this country than does a gnat to a fly.
Some feel that our participation in external affairs, e.g. Iran, in deference to those occurring on the domestic front are diversions created to forestall progress with issues such as education, unemployment, housing, AIDS and drugs.
During the early days of the civil rights movement, I was proud to be among those who marched, prayed and sang “We shall overcome.” We figured we were in it for the count, youthful spirits full of youthful enthusiasm and vigor. We had no inkling that the count would last our lifetimes. We cried,” Freedom now!” with the impatience life reserves for its young, and envisioned a nation that wold finally live up to its promise of “liberty and justice for all.” A nation wherein we could partake equally of its wealth–a wealth that was largely amassed at the expense of our own enslaved ancestors.
Those times passed, but the bitter reality of racism continued. There were real leaders then, unlike today’s paper tigers that surface to temporarily appease us when we cross that invisible, but palpable line, or the egocentric glory seekers, those inept souls that would be King. The real leaders were souls of substance. I remember some of them–how they inspired and empowered us. We sure could use another Malcolm, a Martin Luther King, Je. Where are you Angela?
When one comes so close to the realization of a dream too long deferred, one fights hard to choke down the bitterness. It’s no wonder we are a schizophrenic society that must, as poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote “wear the mask that grins and lies.”
The Ku Klux Klan resurrects bitter memories of innumerable atrocities that remained cloaked in secrecy until that fateful day when a nation was virtually forced to view its undersides in the stark, unforgiving light of day. The movement which has slowed to a snail’s pace despite the 1954 Supreme Court edict to promote school integration “with all deliberate speed,” gained an inestimable boost that year when Jet Magazine, a national black publication, printed pictures of the badly bloated and mutilated corpse of a Black teen named Emmett Till for the world to see. Till had been lynched by a white vigilante group for making a flirtation remark to a white female
Historians instruct that we must examine our roots to avoid repeating past errors. Lest we forget what wrath vigilante groups like the KKK have wrought upon our land, we must seek, support, and encourage strong leadership that will eradicate groups that promote hatred.