The reasons why we needed a March on Washington 50 years ago are still with us. It was called the March on Washington for jobs and freedom and the jobs part remains elusive. Over the past 50 years the black unemployment rate has been consistently double the white unemployment rate.
The economic policy institute says “black America is nearly always facing an employment situation that would be labeled a particularly severe recession if it characterized the entire labor force.” That decades long recession is the bedrock problem.
The reason why the gap in household income has not narrowed and the disparity in home ownership has grown wider in part fueled by disparities in the criminal justice system which professor Michelle Alexander has labelled the new Jim Crow because the War on Drugs has only deepened the sense that there’s two Americas and the black one is under occupation via laws and policing procedures that lead to us being treated far more harshly even though whites and blacks use and sell drugs at very similar rates. And our right to vote is being attacked in myriad ways. We need not just a march but a new civil rights movement to deal with the challenges in jobs, inequality, criminal justice and voting rights.
Rinku Sen of Colorlines sees that slowly blossoming in North Carolina’s moral Mondays and Florida’s dream defenders and the courageous dream 9 immigration protesters. This must be a multiracial movement as the civil rights movement was because the assault on Hispanic rights, gay rights or women’s rights is an attempt to push back toward a world where straight white men held 100% of all power. We must see all of these struggles as interconnected. And we must make the movement into activist work and personal as political day to day work. So many of us are doing that, advancing the dream in our daily lives, using our opportunities to advance our families, our race, our world with quiet dignity.
To kill an elderly veteran like Delbert Belton or a young foreigner like Chris Lane is obviously subhuman behavior proving nothing but that a fringe has the potential to be as subhuman as Adam Lanza and James Holmes and Michael Hill who this week walked into a Georgia School with an AK 47 and 500 rounds but was stopped by an unarmed sister named Antoinette Tuff. Her courage and fortitude in the face of death and winning personality are qualities that helped propel the original civil rights movement.
Now that we need a new one, we need a national Antoinette Tuff, a charismatic, brilliant leader who can speak truth to power in just the right way, who can speak at the march and in the backrooms to get things done, and who can take over from the civil rights movement leaders who still people the national stage. Maybe it sounds like I’m talking about a Moses who’ll part the seas and lead us to the promised land but man we need someone or maybe a group of people to help lead us out of this Babylon of structural racism because it’s not going to just work itself out.
We were told the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and lord knows we’re still waiting for it to come around.