John McWhorter: A Better Way to Honor Dr. King's DreamSubmitted by emalvini on Thu, 08/29/2013 - 16:34
John McWhorter: A Better Way to Honor Dr. King's Dream
The goal of the civil-rights movement was opportunity—not a 'post-racial' society.
By JOHN MCWHORTER
August 27, 2013, 6:59 p.m. ET
On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we will hear a good deal about how life in this country for black Americans has not changed as much as Martin Luther King Jr. might have wished. We will hear little to nothing about the role that certain strains of black progressive ideology have played in delaying the realization of King's dream.
"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro," King announced from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. He was right, and America knew it. The following year, segregation was outlawed with the Civil Rights Act. The year after, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
It is easy to forget what an awesome moral landmark it was for an oppressed group to force the larger society to outlaw barriers to its success. But the victory of the 1964 and 1965 laws had an even greater impact than prohibiting segregation and racial discrimination in voter registration: It changed the culture. Personal racist sentiment rapidly became socially proscribed. The Norman Lear sitcoms of the early 1970s, in which bigoted whites were regularly held up to ridicule, would have been unthinkable just 10 years before.
But "the struggle," as civil-rights veterans term the fight against racial discrimination, was hardly over. Practices and attitudes change slowly. As a black man, I can attest that as late as 1986 I was transparently denied a summer job at a restaurant in New Jersey simply because of my skin color.