Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I don't have a dream, I have a demand...

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That historic march, organized by legendary activist Bayard Rustin, and at which Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, was a landmark occasion in the history of civil rights in the United States. And while I certainly don't want to understate the importance of the event, many people use the March on Washington, and the ensuing passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, as evidence that we've "made it" with regard to racial equality.
But they're wrong. We've stagnated in our race relations. In fact, with the recent Supreme Court decision striking down section 5 of the voting Rights Act, and the current and inevitable future efforts of many to restrict the right to vote for many poor and minority citizens, we're actually moving backward. Those with ill intentions continue to play on racial fears and ignorance to push forward their agendas of white supremacy and economic monopolization. We still see gross differences between the opportunities of those born into affluent families versus those born into poor families; statistics show that little has changed when it comes to economic opportunity. There are gross disparities in education and access to vocational skill-building. And while many of these issues are tied to economic disparities, in many places in American society economic inequality has been intrinsically tied to racial inequality.
It is impossible to deny that there is a problem, when black people are hugely disproportionately represented in the ranks of those in poverty, those incarcerated, those as victims of violence, and many other metrics. We need to be honest about where we are in terms of the civil rights movement. We were moving forward in the 60s. We began slowing down in the 70s. We basically stopped in the 80s. We started arguing about the gains in the 90s. We regressed and pretended that inequality didn't exist in the 00s. And now we're moving backward in the 10s.
To turn things around will take honesty, openness, and effort. It can't be only black people that push for continued progress in the civil rights movement. We need equality for all people in this country and this world; immigrants, women, LBGTQ people, the poor, the sick, those from small towns and big cities, and everyone in between. Everyone is naturally equal; it is only because of ignorance, hate, and opportunism that our society has been twisted into believing that there are differences. Those who care need to keep caring and keep moving. Things will only happen if we make them happen.


Crystal Marie said...

So what's your demand?

And what do you recommend? A new civil rights bill?

Michael Murphy said...

I guess my demand is that people a)need to care, and b)need to do something, anything. I think President Obama said it well yesterday:
That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge -- she's marching. That successful businessman who doesn't have to, but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con, who's down on his luck -- he's marching. The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same doors as anybody's son -- she's marching. The father who realizes the most important job he'll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn't have a father, especially if he didn't have a father at home -- he's marching. The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again and walk again and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home -- they are marching. Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day, that change does not come from Washington but to Washington, that change has always been built on our willingness, we, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching.