This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Newscasts will be filled with sound bytes and clips from the hot August day. Interviews will take place with those that were there then and have returned to celebrate the anniversary. For a few days, hope will be rekindled and visions of the “dream” will be revived.
I was just a teenager in 1963. Living in the suburbs, I was well aware of the march. I had a vague notion about the reason for the march. Bob Dylan was going to perform and that was enough for me.
I went to see Bob Dylan. I was part of the crowd. I was swept up in the humanity and the common desire to be treated equally was palpable. Sure, I listened to Dylan sing but I heard the pain, passion, pride and promise in King’s words. I went to enjoy and afternoon of folk music and left with my eyes wide open to the disparity in treatment others were receiving.
I was a teenager. I knew little of the struggle. I lived in the DC area. All of the sudden I was aware of the signs (“colored only”, etc) that were plastered in various establishments. I became acutely aware of the actions of people in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and all the other “Dixiecrat” southern states.
When your father writes for one of the largest newspapers in Washington, DC, you have a front row seat to the events that occur all around the country.
I have spent the last 50 years doing my best to be fair to all. I have not done enough. Oh, it is not because the desire is not there. There is nothing I can do to remove the dark stain on the soul of those that still believe they are superior. There is nothing I can do that will erase the stigma of hundreds of years of inequality.
50 years later and black people still face economic struggles. They still are labeled because of the music they create, the clothes they choose to wear and the way they communicate with one another.
A liberal have baked society points to President Obama and declares his election was proof that times have changed. Really? He barely won the election and the undercurrent on the losing side was patently racist. What are the other signs of progress?
Fair Housing? Sure, there are laws governing fair housing, but what has been done for those that can not ever afford to purchase a home? In our Nation’s Capitol, we warehouse the poor in the old Saint Elizabeth’s hospital. Somehow, the NAR has convinced the media that a big part of the American Dream is to own a home of your own. It’s a lie. We still have thousands upon thousands of Americans who dream of just having a home. Ownership is not the issue.
Voting Rights? OK, we passed a lot of laws to protect peoples right to vote. Recently, the Supreme Court determined that once again the States could decide how to implement access to enfranchisement. It did not work when “jim crow” was the rule and it will not work now. Beyond that, states continue to gerrymander election districts in a fashion that leaves the poor lumped in small sections. Not surprisingly, the poor have a larger percentage of people of color than vanilla wafer folks.
50 years, what have you done for me lately? How long will I have to carry this sign.