I was especially interested to read Barbara Reynolds’ op.ed. piece on civil rights in today’s morning paper.
Her piece, first published in The Washington Post, contrasts the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of today with those demonstrations of the 1960s civil rights movement.
If I had a signature issue when I was writing editorials for The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, it was civil rights. So here it is, long after my retirement in 2000, and I still carefully follow the story of the struggle of our black citizens and other minorities for equal rights.
In her column, Rev. Reynolds notes that at protests today, you have a hard time telling the legitimate activists from the “mob actors who burn and loot.”
She recalls civil rights leaders of that now long ago era, Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Andy Young and, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In contrast with many of today’s demonstrators, such heroes and their followers in those marches and sit-ins exhibited great discipline and forbearance – even when police set upon them with billy clubs and tear gas.
These demonstrators wore suits, ties and dresses, attired in fitting fashion for the dignity and resolution their faces showed.
Dressed in torn jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers, many of the today’s Black Lives Matter demonstrators taunt police and appear bent on confrontation. Some throw bottles and rocks.
Yes, these young people have reason to be upset and angry. Black and Hispanic unemployment remains double that of white unemployment. In some cities, that contrast is more like three times. Social services are spotty and poorly funded.
Segregation in housing and schools in larger cities remains intractable. In a few southern states, public officials continue to seek ways to prevent black citizens from voting.
It would be an insult to minorities and their hopes for equality to point out the social changes that have taken place since the 1960s. Indeed, these are innumerable. In Barak Obama, we’ve even elected a black president – twice.
Nevertheless, equal rights for all citizens still appears the dream of idealists. Which at least explains in part the rowdy behavior of the Black Lives Matter demonstrators as they assess the reality. But they’re still missing something.
At the end of her column, Rev. Reynolds quotes the nasty lyrics of the rappers. Suffice it to say this sounds like the language of surrender, defeat.
What a far cry from the inspiration and hopeful songs of the civil rights movement. For me, the words still ring out – “We shall overcome.” Someday. Yes, someday.