Today is the 49th anniversary of the televised signing of the Civil Rights Act at the White House.
Leading up to the signing was the case of Brown v. Board of Education which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court found that racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional in 1954. In the ten years that followed the case came the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stunning “I have a dream” speech, symbolically delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1963.
The Civil Rights Act was a key component in the successful 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination President Lyndon Johnson continued to push for civil rights reform. After facing strong opposition in the House and a lengthy contentious, debate in the Senate, the act was approved in July 1964.
The Act prohibits racial discrimination in the work place and in education and it also directed that swimming pools, buses, parks, and other public places could not segregate or deny entry based on one’s race.
I give you this history with a heavy, sad heart.
My daughter has a boyfriend that most mom’s dream of for their girls. He is kind, intelligent, supportive, caring, articulate, industrious, creative, loving and southern! And did I mention that he can cook? In spite of their living together (or living in sin, as I call it) for many years he remains devoted to my daughter, caring for her, cooking for her, and loving her. He tolerates her moods, her long work shifts, and her unending honey-do list. He is a teacher and an artist, with gallery shows and stellar reviews. He is also a black man.
Yesterday he was stopped by an officer of the law. This was not the first time this has happened and outrageously, I am certain it will not be the last time. Driving a Volvo wagon, filled with fishing gear, he hardly fit the profile of drug dealer, gang banger, or thug. Presenting up to date registration, valid insurance and a current driver’s license was not sufficient for the officer. This fine man was handcuffed, frisked, and questioned for no reason other than his skin color. When the officer failed to find any chargeable offences he cited him for littering. You see, he dropped his cigarette when he was handcuffed.
Last night I was mad as hell. Today I am filled with profound sadness. Will the time ever arrive when we tell children about the days of racial profiling and civil rights abuses the same way we tell them today about riding bikes without helmets and summer before air conditioning? I also have a dream. It is of a world in which my heart does not hurt. It would be a world in which no one is judged by their appearance, but only by their actions. It would be a world in which black children are not cautioned about the inevitable police attention and the extra scrutiny they will get when shopping. In my dream world outrage against injustice would be judged the same whether for an aging, butter dependent cook or for an unarmed teen. Injustice, intolerance, and bullying would miraculously change to kindness, caring and generosity. I guess I have a dream too.