“SELMA: Yesterday is today”
“SELMA: Yesterday is today”
By Pastor Rasheed Z Baaith
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8 – 9)
We observed the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” this week. With film and with verbal histories from those who were there fifty years ago when marchers tried to cross the Edmund Pettis bridge only to be beaten, hosed, attacked by dogs and clubbed by violent, vicious hate filled men.
It is a part of our history we should never forget. Yet the more we look at the racism of yesterday, the more it seems alive today. No KKK rides during the night, no white only drinking fountains, no separate rest rooms and we are allowed to vote, but today’s racism is just as punishing, just as determined as the racism of the Civil Rights Era.
Today because there is a Black President and a Black billionaire or because there are some Black CEOs, too many of us think the struggle is not only over but has been won. While those things are worth noting, please understand they are bandages covering unhealed, intentionally inflicted wounds.
The current racism can be seen in a Congress that has done things and said things to a Black President that have never been done or said to a white one; it can be seen in the number of young Black lives that are taken and lost almost daily by the environment they live in and by those who police that environment. Or in the video where white college students are on a bus joyfully singing songs about lynching Black folks and excluding “niggers” from their company.
It can most certainly be seen in an education system that deliberately mis educates and under educates a huge number of Black children every day they attend school.
For years we have taught ourselves that education is the answer and I still believe we need all the education we can get but recent studies show that Blacks who graduate from college still have less wealth than whites who graduate from high school. And that the racial wealth gap has increased since the 2007 financial crisis.
The hope is that racism will have less appeal with each passing generation. Maybe not. Many young whites, the Millennials, have the same level of racial stereotyping as their parents.
Politicians are certainly not the answer. The Republicans for all their talk of opening the tent were woefully under represented at the Selma observance and deliberately so. As a party they have shown they could not care less about the concerns of Black lives. When have we heard Florida’s Marco Rubio speak about our young men dying in the streets or the awful living conditions of Black folks in Miami with the same passion he uses when talking about the Castros or about the lack of freedom in Cuba or immigration issues?
And when will the Democrats do more that give lip service to our concerns? Has it made any difference to those parents whose children keep dying on the streets of Chicago that the Mayor of the city is a Democrat? Or that this same Mayor was once a member of the Obama administration?
We keep fooling ourselves because of window dressing.
Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we like it or not, racism is alive and well in this country. Has there been progress in our struggle to make this country what is can be for us and others? Without doubt. But there is still a great distance to travel and still a great load to lift.
Writer and Profess Cassandra Jackson describes our reality so well: “It is a new day. But we should fool ourselves into relegating the past to the past just yet.
We see archival photos of angry white faces, surrounding Black bodies soaked in spittle and blood from Boston to Birmingham, we prefer to see these moments as frozen in another time and resurrect them only occasionally for the educational purposes. But if great Civil rights leaders, such as John Lewis are still alive and well, so are many of the people who viciously attacked protesters in 1965…those people are not all dead and more importantly neither are their ideas.”
Think about it.