(NNPA) - On Aug. 28, 1963, a rainbow of people—Red, Yellow, Brown, Black, and White—traveled to Washington, DC to protest the lack of Jobs and Justice for African Americans. Forty-seven years later not much has changed in some ways, but a lot has in other ways.
Joblessness in the Black community may be worse than the rate in 1963. The number of African Americans unemployed is officially doubled the national average. In many cities and towns across the nation unemployment is 20, 30, 40, 50, and even 60 percent.
In early July, the Congressional Black Caucus held a hearing citing the national issue of African American unemployment. According to a report by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee unemployment rates are at least double to those of their White counterparts.
Similar to joblessness, the lack of justice in the Black community remains a significant issue. The most widely publicized case was the acquittal of three New York police officers accused of unjustifiably shooting to death Sean Bell on his wedding day three years ago.
The organizers of the 1963 March on Washington (A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Doctors Dorothy Height and Martin Luther King, Jr.) used the backdrop of President Lincoln's Memorial to challenge the United States government to live up to its promise of equal justice for all, regardless of race, religion or resources. The issue platform of Jobs and Justice was predicated on the moral injustice of racism and the importance of the federal government enforcing the law equally.
For example, when Dr. King said that the words "nullification and interposition" that "dripped" from the mouths of southerners violated America's promise to all of her citizens. Using a states' rights argument, most southern states (Virginia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia) viewed federal desegregation laws enforced by the federal government as a violation of their "sovereign" rights to enact and enforce laws as they chose. In particular, those who believed in states' rights forty-seven years ago argued that states had the right to "nullify" federal laws due to "interposition" by "big government."
Today, Glenn Beck and his Tea Party followers are today's states' rights segregationists who believe the federal government has no right to interfere with the right of states to enact and enforce racially and ethnically laws. The most infamous example is the recent law in Arizona permitting police officers to randomly stop persons suspected of not being a United States citizen, the effect of which will be to unjustly profile people of Brown or Black skin.
In maybe the most perverse transversal of good to bad messaging Glen Beck has the audacity to claim that the spirit of the 1963 march as articulated by Dr. King is consistent with issue platform of Tea Party members. Wrong!
The ideas behind the Civil Rights Movement—then and now—could not be more polarized to the ones behind the Tea Party movement. According to Glen Beck, Tea Partiers believe in states' rights, weak federal regulations, privatization, and "our country back."
Conversely, today's civil rights advocates such as members of the Black Leadership Forum believe in a strong federal government that enforces anti-discrimination laws for all people towards the public good. Not only do we believe "…that this country was made for you and me", those who think otherwise are un-American.
Therefore, when Glen Beck an his un-Americans travel to the Lincoln Memorial on August 28 we will pray for their realization that the ideals of America are inclusive such that one group (White Americans) should not benefit from "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to the detriment of people of color.
Let America be America.
Gary L. Flowers is executive director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.