Monday, January 17, 2005

We shall overcome. Overcome what?

Watching and listening to the news today I was presented with snippets of parades, marches and demonstrations in association with the Martin Luther King holiday. On at least two Minneapolis/St. Paul local news stations, I saw marchers trudging up prominent Twin Cities' avenues singing the old standard "We shall overcome" while walking resloutely, arms interlinked. Tradition since the holiday came into being, the obligatory anthem evokes images of past struggles in the civil rights movement. It reminds us of a time when "overcoming" all the obstacles to full citizenship and participation in this country's process was not a foregone conclusion. But I am just cynical enough to think that its singing today is not for nostalgia, but rather as an admonishment that we still have not paid for the past sins of slavery and the subjugation of blacks in this country. This could be a very long post if I were to offer even a few of the observations I have about the state of black-white relations, the quality of leadership in the black community and their continiuing implication of an institutionalized racism in this country, or the wack job white supremacist organizations that continue to cling to their own sick vision. No, I am not going to write that post today. What I do want to do is ask all of those marching and singing; what is it that you are trying to overcome? Is it the problem that Bill Cosby tries to shed light on when he talks about young black men who think it's cool to drop out of school at 14, dress like thugs, speak a language that only compatriots can understand, then wonder why they can't even get a job at Burger King? Is it the problem of 15 year old black girls having babies and then wondering at age 20 why they can't reach the American dream? Is that the obstacle that needs to be overcome? Or is it the racism of white America?

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