This article was posted in the Rocky Mount Telegram titled as “Progress On Racial Equality Front Meets New Challenges In 2016.”
“THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME”
As I pause and reflect on this country’s promise of justice and equality for all I am reminded of the many barriers that have negated the fulfillment of this promise. Are we destined to continue dreaming an impossible dream? Are we destined to continue living in a country where justice and equality will never be on one accord? Indeed, there is much truth in the old adage “the more things change the more they stay the same.”
Legislation has all but put an end to forced racial segregation yet actions and attitudes remain unwavering. Racial stereotyping is just as prevalent today as it was yesterday. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that abolished the Jim Crow Laws and invoked the commerce clause which outlawed discrimination in public accommodations. Today we are seeing new laws enacted like HB2 that give rise to discrimination anew and religion being used to justify the unjustifiable.
In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed to rectify inequities in voting rights. In 2013 the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of this act citing there was no longer a need. After that ruling the restructuring of voting rights went into overtime. Today we are not asked to count marbles in a jar or read parts of the Constitution but the obstacles of acquiring a voter ID and getting to a polling place is just as daunting.
The Brown v. Board of Education decision was handed down on May 17, 1954 and from that day forward opponents started working feverishly to find ways to circumvent the law. Following this decision home schooling increased, church schools, charter schools and academies started opening at an epidemic rate. Today public schools are being robbed of funding and are just as segregated as they were before the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Affirmative Action was first introduced in the issuance of an Executive Order to create the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. By Executive Order, President Lyndon B. Johnson developed and enforced this order in 1965. From the outset there was strong opposition. Under the guise of reverse discrimination there has been one lawsuit after another. Today, the Affirmative Action Program has been stripped of its original intent and is but a fading shadow.
In 2009 the Tea Party was formed and from day one its members went after President Obama with a vengeance and gave birth to the slogan “taking our country back.” Tea Party members have depicted President Obama in every racist format possible and engaged in verbal racial confrontations even with African American members of Congress. Instead of rebuke the organization has been embraced as if it were mainstream and candidates seeking elected office have been elated to get its endorsement. To the contrary, when Black Lives Matter organized in 2013 critics wasted no time calling the organization racist and a terrorist group. This comes as no surprise because down through the annals of time when people of color have dared to speak out about injustices or challenges the system they have sometimes paid the ultimate price or have been labeled as trouble makers and radicals. Is it the expectation that people of color should suffer peacefully and accept things as they are without question?
In 1968 George Wallace ran for president on a segregationist platform. Today we have George Wallace in Donald Trump, a man who freely expresses racist views and is a Mister “Cure-all” without a how. It is appalling to hear members of the Republican leadership criticize his racist remarks on one hand and endorse him on the other hand. Obviously, for them, it’s all about winning at any cost and sacrificing self-respect is a price worth paying.
John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” So, as long as minds and attitudes reject change, it is not unreasonable to expect that “the more things change the more they will stay the same”.
Gardenia B. Hobbs, Rocky Mount, NC