I was a little late to work this morning (well later than my usual late anyway) because I just couldn't help but sit and watch a little of the Rosa Parks funeral procession. I'll admit it, I was a little veclemped.
Being only 30(ish), white, and Canadian, I've never really had to deal with any blatant organized segregation, but like most people of my generation, I have seen and heard a lot about what went on back then. It is with all that in mind that I am just awestruck at the differences between the fight for equality then as compared to now.
Back then, you had a simple working class individual who, finally fed up with extremely unfair bussing practices, amongst other things, decided to test her civil rights by forcing the city to take her to court. She was not the first, nor was she the last to do this but due to the timing of her actions, and with the help of such leaders as Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement was able to use her stand as a focal point to draw attention to the illegal race based policies of the day. Most of this was done through what could truly be called affirmative action
, that is instead of trying to pull themselves up by pulling others down, the leaders of the day tried to show how everyone should be on the same level.
Sadly, the same can not be said for those seen as the 'leaders' of the civil rights movement today. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the rest of the self declared leaders (coincidentally mostly on the far left) who claim to be trying to help minorities have turned to an 'attack first' philosophy in which anyone who does not fall into lockstep with their agenda is fair game. The problem is partly to do with the power of the original movement and how it managed to change the majorities heart and minds until there was little clear cut institutional racism left to fight. Now instead of a battle over black and white issues (a double meaning if ever there was one), all that is left to fight over are the shades of gray and those do not have clear cut answers.
The general gist of the two sides, from how I see it, is that one group, mostly made up of conservatives, believe it is enough to give everyone a level playing field, and that the best way to combat racism is to essentially leave race out of legislation. The other group, mostly made up of more liberal members, believe that even if the playing field is leveled, past actions require additional aid be given to formally discriminated against groups. It's perfectly ok for each group to hold those opinions, and on a case by case basis the solution to a given problem may entail a solution that leans more towards one side or the other.
Sadly, it does not appear that most of the current, and especially the more outspoken leaders of today can see that there are in fact two sides. Instead, they choose to demonize anyone who happens to put forward the first viewpoint, usually claiming that that groups lack of support for their particular solutions is an indication of their inherent racism. That's why you constantly see Sharpton, Jackson and for that matter almost every liberal group constantly trumpeting the "Republicans are racist" claims with little or no support for their charges. To them, the lack of support for their often extreme agenda is proof in and of itself of the right wings racist tendencies. Just how many times have you heard how anti-black the Bush administration is. Why? Can anyone site an example of legislation they have tabled or passed that directly targets African-Americans for anything that could be defined as discriminatory, and remember, denying special rights and privileges to a group is not in fact a discriminatory action. In fact, and no one can deny this, President Bush has appointed more minorities to powers of position, including Secretary of State (twice) than any other President, including Bill Clinton. Part of the problem liberals have with this is that these Republican appointees were usually picked because of their abilities and not out of some 'balancing the tables' mentality. These were generally self made people who did not need to use their status as a minority to gain their positions. In addition, Bush has also spent almost twice as much as Clinton on poverty related programs, which is often seen as a strong minority issue but once again, as he did not follow the Sharpton program in making these decisions, he of course must still be racist.
It'd odd, but in some strange way all this makes me long for the days when selective civil disobedience like not surrendering your seat on a bus, organized protests such as the resulting bus 'strike' and generally positive messages about how all (wo)men are created equal were the weapons
of choice. It's been a long long time since anyone even came close to uttering a statement as memorable as "I have a dream...".
Lucky for us all Rosa Parks did have a dream and because of her strong will to make her dream a reality, as well of the countless others who shared in her vision for what could be, we live in a world infinitely better than the one of just a few decades ago.
R.I.P. Mrs. Parks and thank you.