We recently passed the 50th anniversary of the “march on Washington” where Dr King made his famous “I have a Dream” speech.
I just attended a day and half symposium on the civil rights movement from the civil war to today. Included among the speakers were Julian Bond and many social activists. It was quite eye opening and informative.
To most Americans especially non-blacks or hispanics, it appears that we have come a long ways and things are just fine and dandy. Many are ready to dismantle the trappings of affirmative action, welfare, food stamps and many other social benefits aimed at making life for people of color more tolerable.
On the surface that may seem true, BUT the reality is that many things have changed, but many other things have not. Superficially, some attitudes are better but racism and prejudice are still heavily embedded in our society.
Consider that unemployment among blacks is at just over 13% while unemployment among others is around 7%. And among blacks under 30 the rate is over 40%.
Also consider that while drug use is about the same across all races, enforcement and imprisonment for drug use is much heavier among blacks and hispanics to the point that today there are more blacks in jail or prison today for drug use than there were slaves in 1850 !
When Reagan started his war on drugs, drug use in the US was actually in decline. His war on drugs has actually exasperated the drug problem and driven many blacks onto the unemployment roles and ultimately into our prisons. Jobs for black America in the 50s and 60s were much more available than they are today. Back then at least we had a thriving auto industry and manufacturing sector for low and middle paid americans. Now we have neither. While this was not intentional nor foreseeable, it still made the problem what it is today.
I’m not black so for me learning about what was going on in the black community was an eye opening experience. We hear about a few things in the media but for the most part it is fairly watered down. While I thought that things were much better, in many cases things are not better but even worse.
While there are no separate drinking fountains or seats at the back of the bus. Racism has gone undercover and blacks still find themselves grossly unemployed or under employed. Some few have made it out (such as Obama) but the vast majority are still fighting the same fight they did 50 years ago. We have come a long way, but we are very far from making America, a far and just society for all.