Thursday, June 28, 2007

A change gon' come

The past few days I've been privileged to attend a number of events: seeing Michelle Obama in Harlem, a symposium at the Schomburg, and the free showing of Don Cheadle's new movie, Talk To Me. Although these events vary on their face, they all provoked the same questions: When will things in this country in regard to how it treats race (in particular, black people) change for the better? What will it take for there to be change? Can there be change at all? I have various thoughts on these events and opinions on these questions - all of which I need some time to collect and organize - but I felt the need to note this briefly.

Whether we like it or not, things will change. All living things - including a people, a nation - invariably MUST change. We are given a choice to be proactive or reactive in the face of impending changes - and we make that decision all the time, whether we're conscious of it or not. One thing that dawned on me as a result of attending all these events is that in the past, strides were made for the better when our backs were against the wall. Black people in this country were STRUGGLING during the time that preceded the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's in a way our generation could never truly know - racism was blatant: disenfranchised, living in a world where "separate but equal" made sense. The news of a black man being lynched was saddening, but not surprising depending on where he lived. And when one's back is against the wall, they either take the beating or fight back. And so black people in this country fought. In many ways black people in this country won. Strides were made.

What many of us have lost sight of is that the fight is NOT OVER. We are still in the struggle - in another phase - a more dangerous one, I believe. Black people - people of color - whatever you want to call it - are comfortable. Our backs aren't against any walls. We come and go as we please, we get the same opportunities as the melanin-deficient. To some, we have it easier because of our history of disenfranchisement: it gives us the edge. No. Racism is still in place - it's just more latent, for the most part. There's a reason why some of us still believe affirmative action is necessary that goes beyond the errors of the past that affirmative action policies purport to try to correct. Still, in the 21st Century, our youth are starting the race with a handicap. In many of our communities the schools have to FIGHT if they want decent conditions for the students, decent books, decent teachers. Also, Black people still have to be concerned with how we are perceived based on our appearance, our speech, our hair, our culture in terms of job opportunities. Strides have been made but the major concerns STILL exist. Thank God for the work that has been done - but the negative effect of the Civil Rights Movement is the complacency that currently pervades. This phase of complacency is dangerous but I believe it's gonna to come to an end soon enough.

Reading about the Supreme Court's decision today striking down integration efforts in Kentucky and Washington just further supports my feeling. Our backs will be put back against the wall but in a different way. The Supreme Court of the 50's and the 60's were so INTEGRAL to the strides the Civil Rights Movement made - because as deftly as the NAACP argued for rights to an equal education for the youth back then, if the Court wanted to uphold separate-but-equal in terms of education opportunities, they could have. Based on my studies, the Court has issued many decisions to uphold or strike down one thing or the next based not so much on legal reasoning and public policy but just to come to an end that supported their own political positions. If you read the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (which set the stupid separate-but-equal precedent in the first place) you might see what I mean. I wouldn't call them civil rights activists or anything - but the people sitting on the Supreme Court at the time of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka et. al. did so much to benefit the movement that most people just DO NOT recognize. The Court helped uplift the movement in a crucial way, and the Court of today is likely to do much to suppress our people. I intend to read the decision to examine the reasoning used - based on the article I read the Court is saying (in a 5-4 decision, the 4 being the liberals sitting on the court) that in order to obtain racial diversity schools have to use race-neutral means? Hmm?

Anyway, a change is gonna come. I think a lot of sh*t will go down before it happens though - unfortunately but fortunately. And the leaders are already here - they haven't emerged yet - but they will soon enough.

More on this later. Just noting this down has me inspired to write.

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