Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Still So Far to Go

In 1959, Little Rock, Arkansas, Central High, nine Black students walked a gauntlet between National Guardsmen and angry protestors in an effort to uphold the law of the land prohibiting segregated, unequal education.

We now know that Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Eskimo, and White students may sit side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder to learn--except in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama where illegal immigrants have been banned from accessing and attending institutions of higher learning. Some students banned in Georgia gather to study anyway. They wish to maximize the fine minds they’ve been given by birth, but they won't receive college credit for their scholarly work. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, fire hoses knocked down men, women and children being civilly disobedient to protest segregation. The nation was horrified by the excessive force, the sheer brutality shown.

We now believe that segregation is wrong, that true to our Constitution, all people should have equal opportunities--except our professed beliefs do not match the evidence. Even though Whites are no longer a majority, they still enjoy an exclusive educational setting while Black and Hispanic children attend schools populated by their own races, and these schools are not funded equally either.

We seem to have learned little after those dogs were set loose on children or fire hoses lifted in 1963. In Davis, on the University of California campus, 2011, a lone university police officer fired pepper spray into the faces of students staging a sit-in to protest a 32% tuition increase from 2010 and proposed budget cuts in order to balance California’s deficit. In other cities across the land, Occupy Wall Street protestors were rousted, some even struck with Tasers or sprayed with mace because they were there. 

In 1968, outraged by desecration of the U. S. flag in protest against the U. S. involvement in Vietnam and drafting boys to serve, Congress passed a bill prohibiting shows of contempt against the flag.

From 1969 through 1989, in separate cases, the U. S. Supreme Court whittled away at the legislation banning displays of contempt for the U. S. flag. Now we believe that even burning the flag is exercising one’s Constitutional right to free speech.

But we still seem uncomfortable with free speech. In 2011, Madison, Wisconsin, union members, many teachers, staged a protest against legislation stripping them of collective bargaining rights. They lost their rights anyway and were locked out in the cold. And in 2013, peaceful protestors gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for Moral Mondays, a passive resistance movement to protest legislative efforts to rob a woman of sovereignty over her own body. The protestors went to jail, and women lost their rights anyway. Legislators didn't care for or heed the speeches of peaceful protestors.

How far we’ve come since 1957. What a long road lies before us.