The March on Washington on Saturday, August 24, 2013, was one of many commemorative acts of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” that took place around the country. This event has fostered continued dialogue on the health of our society in terms of prejudice, stereotyping and racism following the John Zimmerman verdict. Many people are still searching for the answer to the problem of racism; reflecting on their own personal experiences with racism; and attempting to rectify what has happened common to PTSD victims. Many who experienced outrageous and brutal forms of racism are still alive today, but how many times have we talked about it? We know it happened and the dates of significant events, but are still disconnected to the individuals who experienced it firsthand, while they sit right next to us, across from us, or hold our hand. Why isn’t this conversation happening? Is it because we are still aching from the battle and are uncomfortable with the issues it my raise. Are we afraid if we talk about it, for it may rear its ugly head again? Do we feel it’s gone and should be forgotten? I urge you to probe your family members about their experiences. It is interesting to see exactly what these conversations reveal and how that reflects on who they are, their ideas, their actions and their outlook. You just might learn something about yourself.
So as I walked through the sea of people who gathered to see and hear what 50 years later looks like, I thought about these questions. How many people are here that have had traumatic experiences because of their race. I seen alot of smiling faces, many children with their parents, many elders moving slowly and many moving very quickly, and I wonder what does this all mean? I use my camera in attempt to capture moments of expressing just that. The meaning behind the smiling or frosty faces. One woman sang “This little light of Mine” by herself holding a sign with a brightness on her face, while some looked upon her what it seems like disdain, confusion, envy, joy. However, as I moved with the flow of traffic, that tune was picked up by a group of people a little further down the trail. I wanted her to know her light was shining and affecting others. These images below are the faces that found it important to gather in D.C. on that Saturday.
Others sat on the grass in meditation listening to the speakers reflect on their own experiences; give direction and encourage the masses. Democratic Representative of Georgia and speaker of 1963 march, John Lewis, commented on the issue of voters’ rights today, “I gave blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote. I am not gonna stand by and let the supreme court take the right to vote away from us. You can not stand by, you cannot sit down, you got to stand up, speak up, speak out and get in the way, make some noise.” As Lewis connected the plight of 1963 to today, it put the fragile state of civil rights into focus. Could we really be facing the same issue 50 years later? How are we to fight this? How informed are young people and how important do they believe this fight to be?
Many young people have had a strong sense of confidence instilled in them from a young age, which was a result of efforts of civil rights leaders to build up those who were experiencing prejudice-ness with the strength to fight it. The Black is Beautiful movement and success of Affirmative Action has distracted, quieted, and blinded young people. As we passed down this uplifting tradition it was disconnected to the experiences that facilitated them. So today, young people are having a hard time identifying issues and knowing how to respond to them. What is our job. Mayor of Newark, NJ Cory Booker took some responsibility, “We, and my generation, cannot now afford to sit back consuming all of our blessings, getting dumb, fat, and happy thinking that we have achieved freedom. The truth of the matter is the dream still demands, that the moral conscience of our country still calls us. That hope still needs heros. We need to understand that there is still work to do.” I thought this was perfect, but how are we to move people to action? When so many people can’t recognize the problem?
Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Al Sharpton shares a great example of the mindset of many young people, “I met a man not long ago, I tell it often. He says, I’m African American, but I don’t understand all this civil rights marching you talking about Rev. Al. I’ve accomplished, I’ve achieved, look at my resume, I went to the best schools, I’m a member of the right clubs, I have the right people, read my resume, civil rights didn’t write my resume! I looked at his resume and I said you’re right civil rights didn’t write your resume, but civil rights made somebody read your resume. Don’t act like whatever you achieved, you achieved because you were that smart. You got there because some unlettered grandmas who never saw a inside of a college campus put their bodies on the line in Alabama and Mississippi and sponsored you up here.”
As we work hard to make individual progress and achievements we often forget what has been done for us to get here. These efforts were not that long ago, some of our parents have fought with fists, been beaten with canes, hung by the trees, or quieted and sequestered. But it is time to talk about this because we still have minds thinking like Pat Buchanan. In closing I leave you with this letter Pat Buchanan wrote to President Obama:
“Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America … Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation… White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to… This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these :
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known… Jeremiah Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants. Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated their time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude???
Barack talks about new ‘ladders of opportunity’ for blacks. Let him go to Altoona ? And Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for ‘deserving’ white kids…? Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America ? Is it really white America ‘s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?
Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?
As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?
Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?
We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena . And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.
Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.”