Thursday, August 28, 2008

For Jobs and Freedom +45

Another anniversary. The March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom was 45 years ago today. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech tonight as the first African American nominated by a major party marks the occasion. Less than half a century ago segregation -- de jure in the south, de facto in the north -- was the American way of life. Racism was overt, and in the Neo-Confederacy the American version of apartheid was maintained by state terrorism. From the high culture of gentility and the pornography of Gone With the Wind to the low culture of whole towns picnicking at a lynching, the peculiar perversion of the South cast a long shadow over the nation.

We can celebrate the many things that have changed since then. For instance, half a dozen states prevented people of different “races” from marrying until 1967. Yes, much has changed. But since the late 1960s, when the Republican Party, to its everlasting shame, eagerly absorbed southern Democrats, the GOP has predicated its success on the exploitation of racism and fear. It’s so much subtler now, of course, but the heart of John McCain’s campaign is the fear of a black man, couched in the language of presumption, inexperience, and arrogance. We sure have come a long way, through hard struggle, but we’ve still a long way to go.

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