Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Civil Rights

I've had Civil Rights on the brain for a few days.
Yesteday I heard a nice little kid on my Lacrosse team make the most horrible race joke I've ever heard. He ran for a very long time.
Racism is still alive and well and living in my town. That is sad.
I heard something a few days ago on NPR that might be sadder.
Apparently, the Martin Luther King memorial center has fallen badly into disrepair. The area run by the National Park Service is still well maintained, but the portion which is still run by the family has not. The maintenance staff has been fired and the operators (MLK's sons) are drawing six figure salaries. The fountain is chipped and there is mold.
I think this might be an analogy for the Civil Rights movement of today.
To be clear, the Civil Rights movement that began somewhere around the 1930s and culminated with the world change for the 1960s is one of the best examples of prophetic vision yielding social change which history has ever offered. My mom heard dogs and felt hoses in the South. My dad (a moderate skinned Arab who tanned well) spent some summers in the south, where he was called nigger and told to ride the back of the bus. She got to watch the news about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and feel a part of it. He got to go to to an Ivy League School. The expansion of humanity within American Civic Life was beautiful.
Then some guys got shot.
There was no Joshua to the Moses of MLK, and nobody to pick up the gauntlet of angry struggle from Malcolm X. Kwase Mfume went from brilliant & angry to older and bitter. We got...Jesse Jackson. No fair.
I'm reminded of a comment Tom Friedman made about Beirut during the wars. There were more than two sides to the conflict--which made it complex, but that wasn't what made resolution so difficult. The problem was that one of the stakeholders in the conflict had an interest not in a safe outcome, but rather in the continuance of the conflict itself.
Ultimately the best people fight for the right kinds of things, and social justice is right. Therefore I see hope on the horizon--but not on the news.


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