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Ware Lecture by Julian Bond

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General Assembly 2003 Event 4051

Julian Bond delivered the 79th Ware Lecture with stinging eloquence, deriding a “President who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged,” one political party that “is shameless and the other spineless,” and an administration aiming from several fronts at dismantling more than 40 years’ work building a framework for civil rights enforcement.

There is a right-wing conspiracy, he said, and it is a wide network “whose enemies are legion—women and minorities who do not know their place, an expansive culture free from suppression of the past, and an America growing more diverse every day.”

Julian Bond is chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served in the Georgia General Assembly and currently is a distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American University in Washington, DC, and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Reported by Kathy Rawle.

Ware Lecture

Copyright 2003 by Julian Bond

It is nice to be with a group which is so eager to have me.

We meet during a year studded with important anniversaries—celebrated events in the centuries-long struggle for human rights.

140 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states in armed rebellion against the United States.

100 years ago, W. E. B. DuBois published The Souls of Black Folk, famously predicting that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line.

55 years ago President Harry Truman desegregated the American military.

40 years ago this month NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson.

And 40 years ago this August, Martin Luther King, Jr., fresh from the battlefields of Birmingham, told the nation of his dream at the March on Washington. There were over 10,000 anti-racist demonstrations that year.

King was the most famous and well known of the modern movement's personalities, but it was a people's movement. It produced leaders of its own; but it relied not on the noted but the nameless, not on the famous but the faceless. It didn't wait for commands from afar to begin a campaign against injustice. It saw wrong and acted against it; it saw evil and brought it down.

Those were the days when good music was popular and popular music was good. Those were the days when the President picked the Supreme Court and not the other way around. Those were the days when Martin Luther King was a civil rights leader, not a television salesman.

Those were the days when we had a war on poverty, not a war on the poor. Those were the days when patriotism was a reason for open-eyed disobedience, not an excuse for blind allegiance.

Those were the days when the news media reported and analyzed the news, and weren't just stenographers for the powerful.

In some ways our celebrations of those days have become orgies of racial self-congratulation, often centered on our romantic recollections of Martin Luther King.

We do not honor the man; we honor his imperfect memory. We don't honor the movement; instead, we honor the myth.

We ought to remember that we honor Martin Luther King's birthday, not his death-day; we ought to imitate the well-lived life and not simply mourn the martyr's death.

For most of us, Martin Luther King is little more than an image seen in grainy, black-and-white television film taken in Washington forty years ago, the gifted preacher who had a dream.

But Martin Luther King was more than that, and the movement more than Martin Luther King.

He did more than tell the nation of his dream at the March on Washington. In the years before and after he addressed the human condition, the larger world beyond America's shores.

Racial justice, economic equality, and world peace—these were themes that occupied King's life; they ought to occupy ours today.

We meet as our nation is engaged in a war of occupation in the Persian Gulf, war without reason or rationale, unnecessary and unwise. I fear it may be only the first of the Administration's aggressive faith-based initiatives.

Last fall the NAACP opposed unilateral war against Iraq, but we are as one with all Americans in supporting our fighting forces. We commend the bravery and sacrifice of our women and men in uniform, who represent all races and faiths. More than most of American society, our military reflects the diversity of our nation. We mourn the lives lost, almost 20% of them black, almost twice the percentage of African-Americans here at home. And we pray for a swift return of our fighting forces to America's shores and a just and lasting peace at home and abroad.

When King spoke out against the war in Vietnam in 1965, he was revolted at the hypocrisy of America's claims for freedom overseas when blacks enjoyed few freedoms here. War abroad, he said, stole from Americans at home.

"The pursuit of widened war," he said in 1966, "has narrowed domestic welfare programs, making the poor, white and Negro, bear the heaviest burdens at the front and at home."

How sadly true those words ring today.

We meet also in the aftermath of a terrible day in American life and history—the slaughter of almost 3,000 innocents.

Those who died on September 11 were a diverse group. Most were Americans, but they died with people from more than 50 countries, from Chile through Zimbabwe.

That's why they called it the World Trade Center.

Among the Americans were blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Christians, Muslims and Jews—as diverse in death as we are in life.

One of those who escaped from the World Trade Center said, "If you had seen what it was like in that stairway, you'd be proud. There was no gender, no race, no religion. It was everyone, ... helping each other."

But away from that stairway, back in America's streets, there is gender, there is race, there is religion. Since the attacks, people who look like Muslims or Arabs have been harassed, assaulted, even killed.

On the Saturday following that terrible Tuesday, in Mesa, Arizona, a gunman shot to death the Sikh owner of a gas station and fired on a Lebanese clerk at work and an Afghan family at home. When he was arrested, the suspect said, "I'm a patriot. I'm a damn American all the way."

What he really is is a damn fool.

We know America's twin towers—freedom and justice—are still standing. It is our job to keep upright what others would weaken and destroy. America is strongest when she is just; she is fiercest when her people are free.

Less than a week after the attacks, President George W. Bush went to the Washington Islamic Center. Standing in his stocking feet, the President vowed to prevent hate crimes and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the wake of the attacks. He renewed this vow on the first anniversary of the attacks.

The President stated our nation's goals—retaliation against terrorists abroad and promotion of tolerance at home. They are reminiscent of the “Double V” campaign waged by blacks during World War II: it symbolized victory against fascism abroad and racism at home.

With the events of September 11, we realize we have not achieved either victory—not yet against tyranny abroad—not yet against racism here at home.

Just as this enemy—terrorism—is more difficult to identify and punish, so is discrimination a more elusive target today.

No more do signs read "white" and "colored." The law now requires the voters' booth and schoolhouse door to swing open for everyone. No longer are they closed to those whose skins are black.

But despite impressive increases in the numbers of black people holding public office, despite our ability to sit, eat, ride, vote, and go to school in places that used to bar black faces, in some important ways nonwhite Americans face problems more difficult to attack now than in the years that went before.

Since 1968, to cite just one example, black and Latino students have become more racially segregated from whites. And majority minority schools are highly correlated with high-poverty schools—low parental involvement, lack of resources, less experienced and credentialed teachers—all of which combine to exacerbate educational inequality for minority students. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board, its promise has long been badly broken."

Senator Trent Lott uncovered a running sore, that not coincidentally is also almost 50 years old, that if allowed to fester, threatens to imperil our very democracy.

It is the dependence of the Republican Party on the politics of racial division to win elections and gain power. By playing the race card in election after election, they've appealed to the dark underside of American culture, to the minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality.

In coded racial appeals, they drape themselves in the Confederate flag, embrace Confederate leaders as patriots, and wallow in a victim mentality.

They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division. They celebrate Martin Luther King and misuse his message.

Their idea of reparations is to give war criminal Jefferson Davis a pardon.

Their idea of equal rights is the American and Confederate flags flying side by side.

Their idea of compassion is to ask the guests at the millionaires' banquet if they want an extra helping and a second dessert.

They've tried to patch the leaky economy—and every other domestic problem—with duct tape and plastic sheets.

And what about the opposition party? Too often they're not an opposition; they're an amen corner.

With some notable exceptions, they have been absent without leave from this battle for America's soul.

When one party is shameless and the other party is spineless, we tremble for our nation's future.

For many African-Americans, the nineties were more financial bust than boom. As economic uncertainty and layoffs mount, the last hired become the first fired, joining unemployment rolls already populated by twice the percentage of blacks as whites.

Income inequality, already greater here than in most industrial democracies, has widened.

These imbalances not only mean difficult economic times for many, they also undermine democratic values. The danger is that plutocracy will prevail over democracy, and the free market will rule over the free citizen.

Civil rights forces warned that great harm would come from the first foolish, risky tax bill that gave millions to the rich. It has become clear that our warnings were absolutely right.

It did not stimulate economic growth; it did not provide tax relief for most Americans. In fact, it succeeded only in fulfilling the worst predictions of those who opposed it—it squandered a once-in-a-lifetime budget surplus on an unwise tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy, and it continues to threaten Medicare and the Social Security Trust funds.

The reason for the current deficit and the vanished surplus can be placed squarely on the tax giveaway to the rich.

To make up for the tax cuts, we would have to cut spending by $5 billion dollars 5 days a week for over a year. That was the whole point—to further enrich the already wealthy and to starve the government, making it unable to meet human needs, signing a death warrant for social programs for decades to come.

Now they have made matters even worse. Even as our troops were marching forward toward Baghdad, Congress was marching backward toward greater deficits and even more tax cuts for the rich.

We have a President who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged. He promised to leave no child behind, and instead, left 12 million in the dust.

We have an Attorney General who is a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell.

We have a Senate Majority Leader who has voted consistently against labor rights, against civil rights, and against women's rights. And he's the one who replaced the bad guy!

Only one Senator—Russell Feingold of Wisconsin—voted against the first hastily prepared and ill-considered terrorism measure proposed after September 11.

He explained his vote this way:

"If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search our home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people indefinitely in jail based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live."

Nor do we want to live in a country that permits infiltration and surveillance of religious and political organizations. Yet, the new FBI guidelines proposed by J. Edgar Ashcroft do just that.

Just as we remember J. Edgar Hoover, we remember his counterintelligence program, called COINTELPRO.

And whose intelligence did they want to counter? In a program called "Racial Matters", the FBI tried to disrupt the civil rights movement. They tried to smear Martin Luther King, Jr. They not only wanted him discredited, they wanted him dead. They threatened him with the release of damaging information if he did not take his own life.

We thought we had put a stop to Hoover's programs of spies and lies in the 1970s after these abuses were exposed. Now, under the guise of fighting terrorism, the FBI is going back to spying on law-abiding citizens.

War and fear often cause hasty mistakes, costly both in economic and human terms. We need to remember what we are fighting for.

In the summer of 1918, on the eve of America's entry into World War I, one of the NAACP's founders, W. E. B. DuBois, urged blacks to:

"... forget our special grievances and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy."

The criticism he faced then was immediate and loud. He quickly reversed his position and realized then—as we must now—that calls for a retreat from our rights are always wrong.

He understood then—as we must now—that when wars are fought to save democracy, the first casualty is usually democracy itself.

That is why we must be vigilant against the steady erosion of American values and the basic rights we cherish.

We ought to remember the words of Ohio Senator Robert Taft, who said two weeks after Pearl Harbor had been attacked:

"I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government."

And the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, who said in 1918,

"To announce there must be no criticism of the President, or to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonous to the American public."

But we are seeing freedom shrink and fear expand. We are seeing patriotism contract rather than expand the American spirit.

The FBI and the CIA kept files on me in the 1960s; they may be keeping files on me today. While they were watching and following and photographing and wiretapping those of us working nonviolently in the freedom movement, a wave of white terrorism was sweeping across the South unchallenged. It has taken 40 years and more to bring a pitiful few of those terrorists to justice.

And it has taken 40 years and more to put in place a framework for civil rights enforcement, now threatened on several fronts.

The Administration's judicial nominees are hostile to the basic principles of civil rights law and civil rights enforcement. They oppose the core constitutional principle of "one person, one vote." They've supported federal funding for racially discriminatory schools. They've tried to re-write anti-discrimination laws from the bench, and they've eroded Congressional authority to pass laws that protect civil rights. [iv]

Among those staffing the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department is a lawyer who helped run the purge of Florida's voting rolls. Another is a former senior counsel for the misnamed Center for Equal Opportunity, founded to fight laws requiring racial justice in America.

Organizations dedicated to overturning the gains of the civil rights movement are now dictating public policy. They will not rest until white preferences are restored.

Their very names are fraudulent, and their aims are frightening.

They have already stolen our vocabulary, and they want to steal the just spoils of our righteous war. Sophisticated and well funded, over the past decade they have won several victories in the plot to dismantle justice and fair play.

For more than a decade, they have waged ideological war against moderation in the federal judiciary and then complain the loudest when the extremists they support are rejected.

Now they have ascended to unprecedented positions of power within the federal government.

There is a right wing conspiracy, and it is operating out of the United States Department of Justice. And the Office of White House Counsel. And the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. And the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

There is an even wider conspiracy than this—an interlocking network of funders, groups, and activists, who coordinate their methods and their message.

They are the money, the motivation, and the movement behind school vouchers, the legal assaults on affirmative action, attempts to reapportion minorities out of office, and attacks on equity everywhere.

They promote the politics of anxiety and resentment. They wallow in an imagined victimhood where everyone is against them. Their enemies are legion—women and minorities who do not know their place, an expansive culture free from the suppression of the past, and an America growing more diverse every day.

They've had a small but prominent collection of black hustlers and hucksters on their payrolls for more than twenty years.

Rather than mount serious campaigns for the affections and loyalties of black voters, they prop up bogus black substitutes, and label them "a new generation," assigning a generational conflict to blacks which does not exist in the politics of any other group.

They can't deal with the leaders black people choose for ourselves—so they manufacture, promote, and hire new ones. Like ventriloquists' dummies, they speak in their puppet-master's voice, but we can see his lips move and we can hear his money talk.

They've financed a conservative constellation of make-believe blackface front organizations, all of them hollow shells with more names on their letterhead than there are on the membership rolls.

They're purchasing seats at the table of influence, and they're buying blacks at a few bucks a head.

They want to make any government consideration of race illegal, and thereby do away with our rights and much of the legacy of the civil rights movement, including affirmative action.

Affirmative action was created to fight what Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has called "the unhappy persistence of both the practice and the lingering effects of racial discrimination." Affirmative action has been under attack not because it has failed but because it has succeeded.

It created the sizeable middle class that now constitutes one-third of all black Americans. In the late 1960s, the wages of black women in the textile industry tripled. From 1970 to 1990, the number of black police officers, lawyers, and doctors doubled. Black electricians and college students tripled; black bank tellers more than quadrupled.

The opponents keep telling us affirmative action carries a stigma which attaches to all blacks—as if none of us ever felt any stigma in the days before affirmative action was born.

Why don't they ever make this argument about the millions of whites who got into Harvard or Yale because Dad was an alumnus? Or what about those who got a good job because Dad was president of the company—or President of the United States?

You never see them walking around, heads held low, moaning that everyone in the executive washroom is whispering about how they got their jobs.

Most of our elite professions have long been the near-exclusive preserve of white men. I seriously doubt if a single one of these men is suffering low self-esteem because he knows—everyone knows—his race and gender helped him win his job.

Last Monday the Supreme Court upheld the legality of affirmative action in two cases from the University of Michigan. They struck down the points but upheld the principle. Since the opponents kept telling us that this was about principle, I'd say we won!

The Supreme Court gave legal sanction to what we knew to be morally, socially and educationally correct.

As quiet as it is kept by those who declare themselves `colorblind' in his name, Martin Luther King supported affirmative action. He said in 1963:
"It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstream of American life if we do not do something special for him now, in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis? [v]

President Bush chose Martin Luther King's birthday to announce that, even though he admits society continues to do something special against racial minorities[vi] his administration will not do anything special for them; he opposed the University of Michigan's efforts to promote diversity among its student body.[vii]

That is so ironic—after all, the Bush family has enjoyed three generations of preferences at Yale University—preferences for daughter, for her father before her, and for his grandfather before him.

The Bush Administration likes to use Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as human shields against any criticism of its record on civil rights. After all, Bush is proud of boasting, his Administration is more diverse than any in history—except the one that preceded it.

But the day after the administration filed its brief in the Michigan cases, Ms. Rice issued a rare statement on a domestic issue, saying, "[I]t is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body. [vii]

And Ms. Rice has acknowledged that affirmative action was responsible for her employment at Stanford University.[viii]

Secretary Powell, for his part, has long been an outspoken advocate for affirmative action and specifically said he hoped the University of Michigan would prevail in court.
As the Michigan Law School Dean wrote, "Colorblindness is an ideal, not an idol, and the Constitution does not require us to sacrifice effective education and integration in its name."[ix]

Or, as I like to put it, whether race is a burden or benefit is all the same to these theorists; that is what they mean when they speak about being "colorblind". They are colorblind, all right—blind to the consequences of being the wrong color in America today.

We're such a young nation so recently removed from slavery that only my father's generation stands between Julian Bond and human bondage.

Like many others in this nation, I am the grandson of a slave.

My grandfather was born in 1863, in Kentucky; freedom didn't come for him until the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865.

He and his mother were property, like a horse or a chair. As a young girl, she had been given away as a wedding present to a new bride, and when that bride became pregnant, her husband—that's my great-grandmother's owner and master—exercised his right to take his wife's slave as his mistress.

That union produced two children—one of them my grandfather.

At age 15, barely able to read and write, he hitched his tuition, a steer, to a rope, and walked across Kentucky to Berea College, and Berea took him in.

Sixteen years later he graduated, and the college asked him to deliver the commencement address.

He said then:

"The pessimist from his corner looks out on the world of wickedness and sin, and blinded by all that is good or hopeful in the condition and progress of the human race, bewails the present state of affairs and predicts woeful things for the future."

"In every cloud he beholds a destructive storm, in every flash of lightning an omen of evil, and in every shadow that falls across his path a lurking foe."

"He forgets that the clouds also bring life and hope, that lightning purifies the atmosphere, that shadow and darkness prepare for sunshine and growth, and that hardships and adversity nerve the race, as the individual, for greater efforts and grander victories."[x]

“Greater efforts and grander victories.” That was the promise made by the generation born in slavery more than 140 years ago. That was the promise made by the generation that won the great world war for democracy more than five decades ago. That was the promise made by those who brought democracy to America's darkest corners four decades ago, and that is the promise we must all seek to honor today.

The Civil War that freed my grandfather was fought over whether blacks and whites shared a common humanity. Less than ten years after it ended, the nation chose sides with the losers and agreed to continue black repression for almost 100 years. The freed slaves found that their former masters once again controlled their fate.

American slavery was a human horror of staggering dimensions, a crime against humanity. The profits it produced endowed great fortunes and enriched generations, and its dreadful legacy embraces all of us today.

As John Hope Franklin writes:
"All whites ... benefited from American slavery. All blacks had no rights they could claim as their own. All whites, including the vast majority who owned no slaves, were not only encouraged but authorized to exercise dominion over all slaves, thereby adding to the system of control."

" ... even poor whites benefited from the legal advantage they enjoyed over all blacks as well as from the psychological advantage of having a group beneath them."

"Most living Americans do have a connection with slavery. They have inherited the preferential advantage, if they are white, and the loathsome disadvantage, if they are black, and these positions are virtually as alive today as they were in the 19th Century."

Two hundred and forty-six years of slavery were followed by 100 years of state-sanctioned discrimination, reinforced by public and private terror, ending only after a protracted struggle in 1965.

Thus it has been only a short 38 years that all black Americans have exercised the full rights of citizens, only 38 years since legal segregation was ended nationwide, only 38 years since the right to register and vote was universally guaranteed, only 38 years since the protections of the law and Constitution were officially extended to all.

And now some are telling us those 38 years have been enough.

To believe that is the victory of hope over experience.

To believe that is the victory of self-delusion over common sense.

The modern movement for civil rights has its immediate origins in the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Brown effectively ended segregation's legality; it gave a nonviolent army license to challenge segregation's morality as well.

A year after Brown, an NAACP activist in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus so a white man could sit down. Five years after Montgomery, four young black men, college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to give up their seats at a dime store lunch counter reserved for whites.

These small acts of passive resistance to American apartheid—and the cumulative acts of tens of thousands more—created a people's movement that eliminated legal segregation in less than a decade.

We must not forget that Martin Luther King stood at the head of thousands, the people who made the mighty movement what it was.

From Jamestown's slave pens to Montgomery's boycotted busses, these ordinary men and women labored in obscurity, and from Montgomery forward they provided the foot soldiers of the freedom army.

They walked in dignity, rather than ride in shame. They faced bombs in Birmingham and mobs in Mississippi. They sat down at lunch counters so others could stand up. They marched—and they organized.

Martin Luther King didn't march from Selma to Montgomery by himself. He didn't speak to an empty field at the March on Washington. There were thousands marching with him, and before him, and thousands more who did the dirty work that preceded the triumphal march.

And many who paid the ultimate price, including one of your own—Reverend James Reeb, clubbed to death in Selma's streets by white thugs.

The removal, over the decades since the 1960s, of the more blatant forms of American apartheid, has made it too easy for too many to believe today that all forms of discrimination have disappeared.

Opinion polls reveal that a majority of whites believe that racial discrimination is no longer a major impediment for people of color. In one study, 75 percent of whites said that blacks face no discrimination in obtaining jobs or housing even as such discrimination becomes more severe. In another poll, two-thirds of whites said they were "personally satisfied" with the way black Americans are treated in society.

Polls show that most white Americans believe equal educational opportunity exists right now, even as our schools become more, not less segregated, across the country.[xii]

The successful strategies of the modem movement for civil rights were litigation, organization, mobilization and coalition, all aimed at creating a national constituency for civil rights.

The movement marched and picketed and protested against state-sanctioned segregation, and brought that system crashing to its knees. It was our democracy's finest hour.

Today's times require no less, and in fact insist on more.

Now as we find ourselves refighting old battles we thought already won and facing new problems we have barely begun to acknowledge, we ought to take heart. If there is more to be done, we have more to do it with, much more than those who came before us and who brought us along this far.

As a nation, we have more than a century's worth of aggressive self-help and voluntarism, in church and civic club and neighborhood association, providing scholarships, helping the needy, financing the cause of social justice.

But volunteering for social service alone does little to change the status quo. Creating change requires challenging power.

It is never enough just to ignore evil. It is never enough just to do good. It is never enough just to feed the hungry and house the homeless, as commendable as these deeds are.

It may be helpful to think about our task in this way:

Two men are sitting by a river and see, to their great surprise, a helpless baby floating by. They rescue the child, and to their horror, another baby soon comes floating down the stream. When that child is pulled to safety, another baby comes along. As one man plunges into the river a third time, the other rushes upstream.

"Come back!" yells the man in the water. "We must save this baby!"

"You save it," the other yells back. "I'm going to find out who is throwing babies in the river and I'm going to make them stop!"

I recently heard Professor Lani Guinier say that minorities are like the canaries that miners used to carry to warn them when the underground air was becoming too toxic to breathe.

But too many people want to put gas masks on the canaries instead of eliminating the poison in the air. Too many want to put life preservers on the babies, instead of stopping them from being thrown into a treacherous, dangerous flood.

We have a long and honorable tradition of social justice in this country. It still sends forth the message that when we act together we can overcome.

And we have a revitalized NAACP prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.[xiii]

We have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests, and those interests are justice and freedom.

It is a serious mistake—both tactical and moral—to believe this is a fight that must be waged by black Americans alone. That has never been so in centuries past; it ought not to be so in the century unfolding now.

Black, yellow, red and white—all are needed in this fight.

All of us are implicated in the continuation of inequality—it will require our common effort to bring it to an end.

A civil rights agenda for the new century must include continuing to litigate, to organize, to mobilize, forming coalitions of the caring and concerned, joining ranks against the comfortable, the callous and the smug.

It must include:
—fighting discrimination, wherever it raises its ugly head—in the halls of government, in corporate suites or in the streets.
—ensuring every citizen registers and votes and guaranteeing the irregularities, suppression, nullification, and outright theft of black votes that happened on Election Day 2000 never, ever happen again.

These votes can be a reward for advancing justice or punishment for betrayal—we're tired of fattening frogs for snakes.

We must demand fair treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, especially for people of color. This disease strikes African-American women more than any other group. It doesn't happen to "others"—it happens to all of us.

We demand justice in the criminal justice system—we know race, more than any other factor, determines who is arrested, who is tried and for what crime, who receives what length of sentence, and who receives the ultimate punishment—and we are determined that it stop.

And we demand that the unceasing open season on our people by police come to a stop, here and now, and the criminals in uniform responsible for these crimes are punished.

And we intend to insure that our children—in suburban integrated schools or segregated schools in rural America or the inner city—receive the best education, an education that prepares them for the century just begun.

There is much more—none of it easy work, but we have never wished our way to freedom. Instead, we have always worked our way.

By the year 2050, blacks and Hispanics together will be 40% of the nation's population.

Wherever there are others who share our condition or concerns, we must make common cause with them. In the NAACP, we believe colored people come in all colors—anyone who shares our values is more than welcome.

The growth in immigration and the emergence of new and vibrant populations of people of color holds great promise and great peril. The promise is that the coalition for justice has grown larger and stronger, as new allies join the fight.

The peril comes from real fears that our common foes will find ways to separate and divide us. It doesn't make sense if blacks and Latinos fight over which group has less power; together we can constitute a mighty force for right.

We live in a small world. If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of 100 people, with existing ratios remaining the same, the world would look like this:

  • there would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south, and 8 Africans.
  • 52 of the 100 would be female. 70 would be nonwhite. 70 would not be Christians.
  • 6 of the 100 people would own 59% of all the wealth in the world and all six of these would be from the United States.
  • 80 of the 100 would live in substandard housing. 70 would be unable to read and write. 50 would suffer from malnutrition.
  • Only 1 would own a computer. Only 1 would have a college education.

Looking at the world in this way, we are reminded of our mutual dependence and mutual responsibilities.[xiv]

We know our world and our lives changed on September 11th. We don't know how much even yet. But we know we have a job to do at home as much as abroad.

When I started working four decades ago, there were five workers paying into the national retirement system for every retiree.

I can't possibly know who my five were, but their names could easily have been Carl, Ralph, Bob, Steve and Bill.

When I retire, there will only be three workers paying into the retirement system—their names could easily be Tamika, Maria, and Jose.

We need to provide them with the best schools, the best health care, the best jobs, and the strongest protections against discrimination we possibly can.

(Julian Bond has been Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors since February 1998. He is a distinguished Professor in the School of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and a Professor of History at the University of Virginia.)

Footnotes

  1. 'The New York Times at 2 (Sept. 16, 2001).
  2. Gary Orfield, "Schools More Separate", quoted in Race in American Public Schools: Rapidly Resegregating School Districts, The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University, August 2002.
  3. Statement of Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), October 25, 2001.
  4. The 2002 Election and Threats to Civil Rights in the 108th Congress", Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Jan. 11, 2003, civilrights.org.
  5. Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can't Wait at 146 (1963), (emphasis added).
  6. Racial prejudice is a reality." George W. Bush (January 15, 2003).
  7. " Bush Adviser Backs Use of Race in College Admissions", The New York Times at A14 (January 18, 2003).
  8. Dr. Rice said `I am myself a beneficiary of a Stanford initiative that took affirmative action seriously, that took a risk in taking a young PhD from the University of Denver', referring to her arrival on the campus in 1981' in "Rice Considered a Centrist on Affirmative Action at Stanford", Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2003.
  9. "Study—Race has a powerful role in the US", Associated Press, October 1, 1999.
  10. “Commencement Address," by James Bond, Berea College Reporter (June 1892).
  11. Franklin, John Hope, letter to The Chronicle, Duke University student paper, May 2001.
  12. 'A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?" by Erica Frankenberg, Chungmei Lee, and Gary Orfield, Civil Rights Project, Harvard University.
  13. A 1993 leadership study by Brakeley, John Price Jones, Inc., showed 75% of blacks believed the NAACP the leader among groups with civil rights, social justice and race relations agendas. In this study, 75% of all respondents believed the NAACP adequately represented the black community. An October
    1995 US News and World Report poll reported 90% of blacks supported the NAACP. In an April 1998 poll conducted by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, 81% of blacks reported a favorable opinion of the NAACP.
    The NAACP is profoundly democratic. "Nationally, the NAACP (of all black civil rights/political organizations) is governed by its individually based membership." In Class Notes by Adolph Reed, The New Press, New York.
  14. From Phillip M. Harter, MD, FACEP, Stanford University School of Medicine.

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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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