On Wednesday, August 28, thousands of people will go to Washington D.C. and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This first march focused on civil and economic rights for African Americans and has been credited with advancing the passage of both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
Since the 1963 March on Washington, there have been many notable accomplishments made by African Americans in business, sports, education, science and politics, including the election of the first African-American president, President Barack Obama. However, given the status of Black America, how far have we really come?
As many prepare for the March on Washington 2013, African Americans are still fighting for a rightful place in American society. Issues of voting rights, affirmative action, incarceration, health disparities, unemployment rates, racial profiling policies of stop and frisk, and gun violence continue to plague Black communities. And ultimately, the George Zimmerman verdict of not guilty reinforced the generational trauma that African American people have suffered for centuries at the hand of a racialized system that aggressively maintains a particular racial order.
When the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world is compelled to show his “citizenship papers” we see the racialized system at work. It is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era that required Blacks to prove their status, when traveling or doing anything that whites considered questionable. One’s educational accomplishments, content of character, or law-abiding status did not matter.
Over the years of I have seen made for TV series (Alex Haley’s Roots, Eyes on the Prize) and movies (Glory, The Long Walk Home, The Help) that have documented and portrayed the African American struggle to change America’s racialized system so that Blacks are treated as full citizens. I have learned a great deal and have been moved to tears by this work.
However, with the recent movie release of Lee Daniel’s The Butler, I paused. Why? Because ironically “The Butler” is a reminder that whether you are an African American butler in the White House or the African American President in the White House, the system of racism negatively impacts us ALL, regardless of our station in life.
So, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the battles that were fought and won, must be fought again.
“I know one thing we did right,
Was the day we started to fight.
Keep your eyes on the prize,
Hold on, hold on”.
– From a traditional civil rights song, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
What are your thoughts on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the state of race relations in America in 2013?
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