Push. Pull. Get in the Way.
Those were the instructions from Congressman John Lewis to the young people who attended last Saturday’s gathering of tens of thousands who wanted to pay tribute to the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.
Speaker after speaker spoke of the progress that has been made in 50 years and in the next breath acknowledged that the struggle for economic and social equality is ongoing. Change, it seems, is a journey that is rarely straight and often long.
Five decades ago it was a small sector of citizens demanding of government and the broader society the self-evident truths of the U.S. Constitution. Today there are an array of rights issues—ones that go beyond black and white parity—including gun ownership, privacy, immigration policy, marriage equality. However, voting rights, jobs and a living wage—three of the demands of the 1963 March—are still being debated and disproportionately affect Black Americans. (Push).
Martin Luther King, Jr. biographer, Taylor Branch noted on this week’s Meet the Press that the 60’s held “a deeper resonance with the promise of democracy.” Today, citizen mistrust of government, big business, the media, religion and the 1% has, perhaps, made us jaded. America’s first black President made some of us lift our complacent heads to see if it was true that race no longer mattered. But then realized King’s dream that America’s children would be judged by character rather than skin color was certainly not at work on a recent, rainy night in Sanford, Florida. (Pull).
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and in a matter of weeks, Texas and North Carolina added new voting requirements that resemble the voter suppression tactics of yesteryear. Last week, the Pew Research Center issued a report that shows Black unemployment has consistently been twice the rate of white unemployment for the past six decades. (Get in the Way).
America has made progress in social and economic justice in fifty years but as we can see from 2013, freedom can never be taken for granted. Change is a long and winding journey. We must continue to push, pull and get in the way.
Pew Research Center