Geof Stone: "Race in America"
In his eloquent remarks the other day about Trayvon Martin, President Barack Obama closed by noting that, although we have a long way to go before we resolve the issue of race in America, we have made progress. We are not yet, he said, a "perfect Union," but we have taken steps towards becoming a "more perfect Union."
We have, indeed, made progress since the days when white slavers transported shackled Africans in the dark hulls of slave ships to be sold as chattel to their new white owners. We have, indeed, made progress since the days when the white owners of our African slaves held virtually absolute power to buy, sell, whip and rape their property and when the Framers of our Constitution saw fit to count each one of them as three-fifths of a person. We have, indeed, made progress since the turn of the last century, when African Americans, especially but not exclusively in the South, were prevented from voting, segregated in separate and inferior "colored" train cars, schoolrooms and hospitals, denied the freedom to marry members of the "superior race," and lynched in the most brutal and horrifying manner. We have, indeed, made progress.
We owe that progress to the scores of courageous civil rights activists who put themselves in harm's way in order to fight for justice and equality; to individuals like Abraham Lincoln, Earl Warren, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lyndon Johnson; and to pivotal legal turns like the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But even though, as President Obama observed, things are better for African Americans in our nation today than when he was the age of Trayvon Martin when he died, the moral crisis of racism remains an open wound.