Relegating The Civil Rights Struggle To The Past

March 16th, 2015 · 1 Comment · civil rights, journalism, voting rights

By Arthur Alpert

Oh, the things you learn from reading the Albuquerque Journal!

America’s eternal struggle with race is pretty much history. Did you know that? Truth be told, I didn’t. Not, that is, until I read the Journal’s headlines over the story of the recent commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma 50 years ago and contrasted them with rubrics in the N.Y. Times and Washington Post March 8.

The Times wrote:

“Obama at Selma Memorial, Says, ‘We Know the March is Not Yet Over’”. (It was the Times’ lead story.)

The Washington Post wrote:

“‘The march is not yet over,’ Obama tells crowd at foot of Selma Bridge”. (It was front page at the Post.)

Whereas Journal editors wrote:

Civil rights milestone marked by first black president”.

And for the second deck, “Remembering 1965’s ‘Bloody Sunday’”. (The Journal story ran on A3.)

And the Journal decision to relegate the civil rights battle to the past ignored how Jay Reeves and Darlene Superville of the Associated Press opened their account:

“America’s racial history ‘still casts its long shadow upon us,” President Barack Obama said Saturday as he stood in solidarity and remembrance with civil rights activists…”

Hmmm. Reporters at the liberal Establishment N.Y. Times, the conservative Establishment Washington Post and the newspaper collective Associated Press agreed the news was in the President’s statement that the struggle for equal rights continues.

And the Journal’s headline denied it.

I got the message. The President is wrong. We’ve resolved our once profound racial divide. I was warming to that idea when, perhaps fearful I might harbor doubts, the editors moved to dispel them, publishing Cal Thomas’ opinion (March 10) on where black people stand in America.

After demonstrating his good will (he liked the movie, “Selma”), Thomas offered statistics suggesting African-Americans aren’t doing well. So how to turn that around?

“Start,” he advised, ‘by retiring the song “We Shall Overcome Someday”.

Thomas continued, “begin teaching and modeling what is necessary for African-American success, and then make those standards a top priority of government, church and, most importantly, culture.”

Now I fully grasped why Journal editors cast the Selma March story in the past. Of course, the struggle for Civil Rights is over and America, free of racism, awaits with open arms the right kind of black people.

Silly me! I’d thought it was more complicated.

Not that Thomas was entirely off base; surely individual responsibility matters. But I had the idea racism does, too.

In fact, I figured it’s a key political tool.

When I was young, Southern Democrats used race to keep working men and women at each other’s throats, so the Powerful of that era might enjoy, well, power. Now ancient, I understand Republicans have assumed the white man’s burden, including restricting voting rights.

And I’ve detected racism aimed at Mr. Obama.

Also, in my ignorance, I figured the vast racial disparities in employment, income and wealth exist, in some part, because the system is rigged against the lower (and these days) and middle-classes.

Guess not. Thomas says it’s a moral issue. Individual black Americans lack virtue.

Which, now that I ponder it, makes sense for it means I have succeeded because I am virtuous.

Finally, I can scrap the old theory I was lucky. In my parents, I mean, who scrimped, and in the nation’s stance back then. Believe it, there once was an American community that paid for my K- through – graduate school education and helps me with medical expenses still.

But that explanation is no longer operative. I made it. Did it myself. Why can’t they?

There is a journalistic issue here that baffles me. Why did the Journal’s editors run a story (one page before Mr. Thomas’ essay) about the U. of Oklahoma cutting ties with a fraternity some of whose members took part in a racist chant.

And why print the short item on page 3 about yet another unarmed black guy fatally shot by a white cop? (Last Dec. 18, Gawker elaborated on a NAACP Legal Defense Fund report listing 76 unarmed people of color killed by police in the years 1999-2014.)

Since racism is dead and the problem is black Americans who haven’t shaped up yet, well, why can’t the editors simply spike those stories, the way they do inconvenient reports on a host of other issues.

After all, they just muddy the narrative.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Emanuele Corso

    It’s what I call knee-jerk racism, Arthur. The folks who run the Journal can’t help themselves. It just comes out that way – facts are irrelevant, history has no value, it’s news without burdensome truth. As you conclude truth would muddy their waters.

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