FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s Time to Revive the Civil Rights Movement

We mourn Trayvon Martin, the young African American who, armed only with candy and a soft drink, was shot dead for the offense of “walking while black.”

George Zimmerman, the vigilante who shot him, has not been arrested, apparently protected by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which “authorizes” anyone to shoot someone whom he or she feels is threatening.

This surely is a test of our faith. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For decades, African Americans risked their lives if they walked in certain neighborhoods. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., however, had a different dream. And he helped build a movement to achieve the “substance of things hoped for.”

Now we must choose: We will decide if Trayvon Martin’s death is a moment, or becomes the spark for a movement. We can’t bring him back. But we can make his voice louder in death than it could be in his short life.

Emmett Till’s murder sparked a movement. After he was brutally beaten, his mother put him in an open casket to show the horror that he had endured. Although he was crucified as a warning to others who might demand freedom, his murder gave some the courage to join the civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks remembered. When I asked her why she decided to risk being beaten, jailed or worse by refusing to move to the back of the bus, she said, “I thought about Emmett Till and couldn’t go back.”

When King was assassinated in Memphis, it triggered a 40-year journey of progress, culminating in the election of an African American to the presidency.

Yet, that achievement is misleading. Athletes are cheered by fans of all races. Oprah Winfrey is trusted by viewers across lines of race. In a shining moment, Barack Obama is elected. But behind the klieg lights, we have a long way to go. The action in the spotlights has blinded us to the realities Trayvon Martin’s tragic death exposes.

African Americans are still too often victims of vigilante justice. African Americans are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be jailed for a nonviolent offense. A private, profit-making prison-industrial complex now lobbies for harsher sentences — and minorities are disproportionately the victims.

African Americans were more likely to be steered to risky subprime loans, more likely to pay high interest on auto loans, more likely to find it hard to get financing for businesses.

Over the past 30 years, opportunity has narrowed. Incomes for non-college-educated men fell, as labor unions were crushed and the exporting of good jobs undermined wages. More young people, disproportionately minorities, found themselves priced out of college or forced to go deeply in debt to gain the education they earned.

We must go from moment to movement and struggle to gain the substance of things hoped for. What do we hope for? A fair and healthy start for every child. An end to Stand Your Ground laws and vigilantes. Quality public education for everyone. Full employment and an end to discrimination that results in an African-American jobless rate twice that of whites.

Given the realities beneath the klieg lights, we need a new Kerner Commission to report on the status of race and discrimination in 21st century America. We need a renewed Civil Rights Commission that issues an annual report detailing our progress — or our regression — in racial relations.

We have to decide. Let us take a moment to grieve for Trayvon Martin, whose life was so brutally taken from him. Then let us move from moment to movement, and revive the struggle for a more perfect Union.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail