Today is a day to celebrate the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and remember that there is still work to do for our nation’s citizens.
As we remember the life of Martin Luther King today, let us also acknowledge the contributions and, in some cases, the ultimate sacrifices of the many trailblazers in civil rights for ethnic and religious minorities, women, the disabled, and sexual orientation. Some like Dr. King (Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Cesar Chavez, for example) are well-known. Others like Larry Doby need greater recognition and those who paid the ultimate price like Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Charles Goodman, and Michael Schwerner should never be forgotten.
We should also remember the contributions of bipartisan public servants, who steered this country in a progressive direction towards the much more inclusive culture we have today.
- It was Harry Truman that integrated the armed forces.
- It was Hubert Humphrey whose 1948 speech extolling civil rights at the Democratic National Convention started the process of breaking the back of segregationists control of the party.
- It was the Warren Supreme Court, in the Brown versus the Board of Education decision, that pronounced “separate but equal” in our public schools an abomination and unconstitutional.
- It was the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations that sent federal troops to the Southern States to enforce that Supreme Court Decision.
- It was Lyndon Johnson along with Republicans and Democrats that secured the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.
- It was Richard Nixon who subtly integrated school districts through bussing.
- It was George H.W. Bush that signed the American with Disabilities Act.
- It was the Obama Administration and the Roberts Supreme Court that advanced the cause of Same-Sex Couples.
While these achievements have made us a better country, there is still much to do. There are still forces of reaction, as evidenced by the current occupant of the White House, one of the Congressional Representatives in Iowa, and a State Representative in Arizona that needs to be condemned and voted out. There are still incidents of racial animosity that need to be chastised and, in some cases, prosecuted.
There is still a need to educate people that diversity is a strength. There are still measures like the Equal Rights Amendment to ratify. Being Americans who have a history of overcoming greater prejudice in the past, this next chapter of progress should be easier to write.