Today is the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. This landmark protest led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the Civil Rights Act (1964). When the Supreme Court finally ruled on the latter in 1971, the disgraceful Jim Crow Era of our country’s history finally ended.
This huge victory unfortunately led to a seemingly unending era of de facto discrimination in schools, businesses, and residential segregation. Conservatives fought back against measures to correct the above by claiming to espouse individual rights. When Detroit passed a law banning discrimination in the sale of houses, opponents responded by successfully pushing a charter amendment affirming the right of homeowners to sell their property to whomever they wanted to sell it to. When busing was instituted to desegregate segregated schools, conservatives began extolling the of parents to send their kids to the schools closest to where they live. When Affirmative Action was introduced as remedy for the evasion of enforcement of civil rights law, the right fought back bitterly against what they called “quotas.” When activists sued to enforce voting rights, conservatives extolled “states’ rights.”
For 42 years, then, African-Americans, and other minorities, have been caught in a limbo between legal inequality and true equality. Upon seeing the pictures and footage of those principled and courageous marchers standing up for what they believed in five decades ago I feel a mixture ins triumph and inspiration at what they accomplished and profound disappointment that this country remains so far short of the goal.