By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
There’s few things sadder than seeing the level of contempt for one another and the brutal manner in which African American children treat each other. Some of that is a result of seeing the amount of disrespect exhibited among Black adults in their lives; children do learn by example.
Some theorize that at least part of the reason Black children can be so detached of emotion when hurting one another today is because they attach little or no significance to their existence – past, present or future.
As a consequence, if the African American child places no value on his or her life – how could he or she possibly attach worth to those who look just like him? Where does the vicious cycle of self-hatred end?
Breaking that mold first requires instilling a mindset in children that fosters pride, self-importance, purpose, strength, intelligence, ingenuity and spirituality. The perpetuation in the media of Black men and women as pimps, whores, criminals, slackers, druggies, buffoons, slaves, butlers, and maids can only be thwarted by real-life examples to the contrary. History.
Schools don’t teach it any more – if they ever really did. It has to come from caring family, churches, organizations, and the community. It’s embarrassing to hear Black college students so thoroughly unfamiliar with anything involving their past.
Let’s go back 50 years from 2015 – the year 1965. For many baby boomers, that is a not-so-distant past. For too many millennials, that is ancient times and irrelevant. We can’t expect children to be the aggressors in their quest for education. That’s not fair. We should make sure it gets to them. Their responsibility is to learn and do something with that knowledge.
Because of the hit movie, the media and a great song by Common and John Legend, they have heard of Dr. Martin Luther King leading the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights in 1965. But they should know that it wasn’t that simple. Later that same year, it required the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the voting rights act which outlawed states with ridiculous literacy tests and other discriminatory impediments for Blacks voters.
Viola Liuzzo, a Michigan mother of five, traveled to Alabama in March 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference efforts to register African-American voters in Selma. Not long after her arrival, she was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Her inclusion is important as it counters those who would reduce the civil rights struggle solely to antipathy between Blacks and whites. The children need proper perspective.
Black youths should know that on February 21, 1965, one of the most articulate and outspoken proponents of African American rights, justice and freedom was silenced after a spray of gunfire left Malcolm X lying dead near the podium at which he was speaking to a stunned and saddened New York City gathering.
Also, 50 years ago, Bill Cosby became the first African American to star in a television series. It was an espionage drama – with some com-edic influence – entitled “I Spy.” His co-star was Robert Culp and the two were on the air until 1968.
In the same year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed appeals court judge and civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall to be Solicitor General of the U.S. – at the time, the highest judicial position ever held by a Black American. Later, Marshall became the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1965, SNCC leader Julian Bond was denied his seat in the Georgia House of Representatives – although he was duly elected – because he opposed U.S. involvement in Viet Nam. It took a decision by the Supreme Court to order that he be seated.
Protests in Chicago over segregated public schools in 1965 resulted in the arrest of more than 200 demonstrators – including none clergy, Congress of Racial Equality director James Farmer and outspoken comedian, social activist and author Dick Gregory.
For the first time in the history of NCAA men’s basketball history, an all-Black team – Texas Western University – defeated an all-white squad from the University of Kentucky, to capture the nation’s collegiate hoops title.
President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 appointed Robert C. Weaver as the first African American secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – making him the first Black to serve at the presidential cabinet level.
Patricia Roberts Harris was appointed United States Ambassador to Luxembourg – making her the first African American women to serve as a U.S. ambassador.
Arguably, the worst riot of the civil rights movement erupted in August of 1965 in an area of Los Angeles called Watts when word of police brutality spread after a Black man was arrested for DUI. After the smoke finally cleared almost a week later, the civil unrest left 35 dead, 900 injured, 3,500 arrested and property damages in excess of $225 million.
And it was 1965 when a major move became a game changer for Black entrepreneurs too often lo-cked out of the process of vying for lucrative contracts. President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 to enforce affirmative action for the first time because he believed asserting civil rights laws were not enough to remedy discrimination.
It required government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and em- ployment. This represented the first time “affirmative action” entered the federal contracting lexicon and sought to ensure equality of employment.
Children need to know so much occurred before 1965 – going back centuries before slavery – and that so very much has happened since. It may help them better frame their sense of self and the African American experience. If we don’t teach them – no one will.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City.
Send comments or questions to: [email protected].