Commentary

56 years after Greensboro sit ins, racial justice remains important issue

It’s been 56 years since the sit ins in my hometown of Greensboro energized the civil rights movement in the U.S.

Since then, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it possible for de facto segregation to stop in places like lunch counters and other public accommodations, banned employment discrimination, and it began the process for equality in the workplace. (Though much remains to be done.)

Image by Cewatkin. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pictured: The A&T Four Statue in Greensboro commemorating the participants of the first sit-ins at a Woolworth store. Image by Cewatkin. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Meanwhile, Brown v. Board ended de facto segregation in schools, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened the electoral process to Black and minority voters.

The list goes on for the progress we’ve made as a country toward a better future.

And yet…

Where are we now?

56 years later to the day, the nation (and much of the world) look toward the Iowa caucus as an indicator of our likely future leaders. Iowa is a state that is 87 percent white and 3 percent Black. The nation as a whole is closer to 62 and 12, respectively.

The War on Drugs, mass incarceration and police violence continues to disproportionately target and plague Black, brown and immigrant communities.

The Voting Rights Act has been clipped of some of its power and enabled gerrymandered districts to effectively disenfranchise minority votes.

Voter ID requirements place a heavy burden on Black and immigrant voters.

School vouchers and “school choice” ushers in a new era of segregation in schools while the Fisher case aims to dismantle affirmative action, a heavy blow to access to higher education for many minority students at a time when a college degree is becoming more and more important.

Even in the world of pop culture, the Oscars reflect 0 percent diversity.

56 years later to the day, I’m about to order some lunch (not in Greensboro though), and I’m reflecting on how far we’ve come as a nation to providing equality opportunity for all to achieve “the American Dream.”

And I wonder, 56 years from now, will our Black, brown and immigrant children, all grown up, have access to their voting rights? Will they be able to have access to quality education and healthcare? Will they still be able to eat at a lunch counter?

I hope so.

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