It is Black History Month, a time to focus on the lives and experiences of black folks in America. Quotes and information here and following are from “Civil Rights Chronicle: The African-American Struggle for Freedom.”
Feb. 4 was the birthday of the late Rosa Parks, remembered for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, being arrested and catalyzing the Montgomery bus boycott and “sparking the Civil Rights Movement.” In 1956 the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “was found guilty of organizing the bus boycott in violation of Alabama’s anti-boycott law.”
Slowly and painfully, changes in the treatment of America’s black people would come through civil rights acts (CRA). The CRA of 1957 gave voting rights to black southerners; the 1960 CRA removed barriers for southern black citizens who tried to vote; the 1964 CRA outlawed legalized segregation. The 1966 CRA included a controversial section on housing discrimination. A filibuster led to its withdrawal – the 1968 CRA was also known as the Fair Housing Act. The 1991 CRA strengthened the civil rights law and increased the monetary awards to people intentionally discriminated against. These acts were and are resisted by those who discriminate against black people.
On Feb. 4, 2012, the front-page headlines of the Chicago Sun-Times read: BLACKFACE BOMBSHELL. The story behind these headlines was about the use of the n-word and a skit in which a white worker blackened his face at the Chicago headquarters of the ThyssenKrupp Company. An African American employee resigned his position from this company as a result of this “racially hostile work environment.” The Sun-Times article went on to say, “The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) found ‘substantial evidence’ that the employee was harassed because of his race and that the harassment ‘created a hostile, intimidating and offensive work environment that substantially interfered’ with his ability to perform his job.”
So, America … What’s going on in this republic that purports to be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”?
There are far too many humans whose mentality is the same as that of certain animals in George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm”: They feel “more equal” than others and deserving of more privileges. They resist any change that threatens their privileged status. All too often this resistance is construed as the right to harass, demean and discriminate against members of certain groups.
“Since we live in a changing universe, why do men oppose change? If a rock is in the way, the root of a tree will change its direction.” – Melvin Tolson (1900-66, American poet and educator).
I applaud the African American man who, though forced to resign from his position at ThyssenKrupp, had the courage to file a complaint against this company.
“Each victory must be applauded, because it is so easy not to battle at all, to just accept and call that acceptance inevitable.” – Audre Lorde (1934-92, American poet and writer).