Suppressive voting rights efforts. Open racial taunts. Young black men losing their lives to law enforcement. Nonviolent demonstrators march nationwide for justice. States viewing the federal government as meddling outsiders. Where have we seen this picture? Is this still 1965?
No, but there a lot of people who believe this country is on course to repeat the history surrounding Selma and the civil rights era in a multi-faceted way. And you don’t have to watch a movie to tear up and feel that way.
Selma is happening right now. It’s all around us. You don’t have to look too far to find it. Selma will find you. If that adage is true then the events surrounding Bloody Sunday (Selma) and the Civil Rights Movement have unfortunately recycled themselves into a generation five decades removed from the circumstances of oppression, segregation and the unduly influence of Jim Crow racism.
We seen it repeat almost in almost an instant as soon as the United States Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts decided to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in 2014. I was one-year old when the slaughter in Selma aboard the Edmund Pettus Bridge took place on March 7, 1965. Back then blacks had to fight their way through the courts and marched to demand equal treatment under the law.
Strangely, we are 50 years removed that era and black people are in the same struggle as their fathers, mothers, grandparents and great grandparents. The tyranny of racism is embedded in this country almost as it today as it was back then. It’s just that now it has been embraced a more modern day form.
The problem with battling the polarizing race issue today is that it so hidden and thinly disguised that people overlook it. But it’s there. Like criminals repeating unwanted acts of crime, bigots can’t help themselves. They always surface to the forefront to remind us they are there. For African Americans, there should not be any question about its existence. It never went away. It went into hibernation for awhile.
But because we slept for a number of years after the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, the haters of race and gender equality, justice and fairness, went backdoor and reaffirmed their hatred for symbols of peace through a myriad of ways in education, politics, media, entertainment, and yes, sports. We see it in sports almost all the time.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper rips the N-word with unapologetic ease at a public concert on video and gets rewarded with a couple of days off from the job and a $25 million dollar contract.
The world of education is not exempt from the race card. The University of Oklahoma, including a massive protest by the student body and faculty, just told some racist frat boys to get the heck off the campus and expelled the bums from the school after they were seen on video calling blacks the N-word in a song.
Could it be that Riley and these students were merely exercising their rights to free speech as those bigots did back in the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Unfortunately, freedom speech is freedom of speech even if it is offensive, vile and seen as hurtful. That is a First Amendment covering. However, there is a very steep societal price to pay for ushering in a culture of hate towards a person or group regardless of race, gender and religious beliefs.
History gives us that illustration.
It was hate that drove Nazi Germany in its insane quest to try to eliminate people of Jewish descent. What was the result of that fiasco? Adolf Hitler wound up committing suicide in an underground bunker. It was hate for African Americans that pushed Jim Crow laws in this country. What was the result of those laws? Restrictive voting rights laws were banished and Jim Crow segregation was abolished.
But that doesn’t mean practiced racism has gone away. It is still here and it threatens the essence of our democracy as a country no more than the violence that engulfed the civil rights fight during the 1950s and 1960s. It is now covered up more smoothly.
There are no visible chains or hostile lunch counters to sit-in at but African Americans and other minorities have plenty of reminders that the fight for equality remain. This is a diligent fight, not a 3-round TKO. And we must treat it as such. Since the Supreme Court ripped the heart out of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, 21 states have moved to re-enact restrictive voting rights for residents. More are trying to get away with it as well.
What can we do about this? Well, for one, the fight for equal rights is going to take a lot more than the symbolic media stage we saw when President Barack Obama and a host Congress members walked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in recalling the horrorifying memories of Bloody Sunday 50 years ago when some protesters were beaten and bludgeoned to death by police officers.
It’s going to require action. It’s going to take action like the Justice Department calling out police departments like Cleveland and Ferguson for its impractical racist and unlawful actions against a signaled out minority group (African Africans). It’s going to require the head of police departments like Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley, who recently fired three police officers for their part in racist texts and a video against African Americans, including the President and the First Lady.
It’s going to take going to the polls and exercising the sacred right to vote. Instead of bellyaching and reacting, vote. Until then, the adage that we’re better than this in referencing to this country’s back-and-forth racial tumultuous history, does not really have any juice because apparently we’re not there yet.