Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Civil Rights

CELEBRATING LIFE & CIVIL RIGHTS: 50 YEARS LATER from ryan scott bomberger on Vimeo.

BCN editor’s note: please contact the author for reprint permission.

A lot can happen in 50 years. A lot has happened. The 1960s were a culminating point in our nation’s history, torn apart at the seams by racism and political pride. Crucial decisions had to be made while human rights abuses threatened American democracy. The words enshrined in our Constitution, defining our very humanity, had to become more than rhetoric.

Until the Civil Rights Act of 1957, no civil rights act had been passed in nearly 100 years. Every previous attempt was solely authored and passed by Republicans. Democrats unanimously voted against each and every one, despite claims to the contrary. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (which basically re-emerged as the Civil Rights Act of 1964) was the party of Lincoln’s monumental effort to ensure the civil rights of black Americans. The Supreme Court, which reveals its lack of wisdom and constitutional adherence on a regular basis, ruled the Act unconstitutional.

A subsequent ruling (7 to 1) in the Plessy versus Ferguson landmark case in 1896 solidified racial injustice and established “separate but equal” nationwide.  It was as if any political will to fight for racial equality was crushed under the Supreme Court’s gavel.

But the tyranny of Jim Crow could not withstand the relentless non-violence of freedom fighters. It took everyday people, both black and white, to stand against a ruthless racist ideology that was prevalent in the south and the north. From freedom rides to marches marked with peril, the courage and resilience of these peaceful protestors is awe-inspiring. (Sadly, today’s culture mocks such bravery by affixing nearly every cause du jour to the blood-bought banner of the Civil Rights Movement.)

I want my children to know such fearlessness. I want my children to know we’re called by God to love one another. And I want my children to know that believing in something isn’t enough. The Book ofJames spells it out in inconvenient truths to a culture that chooses apathy over action: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

I’m biracial—half white, half black—fully human. It’s hard to believe that half a century ago, my marriage would’ve been illegal. I would also have been classified, despite the 14th Amendment, as less than human by eugenic social policies designed to degrade and destroy.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 turned 50 this year. A lot has changed for the better. Racial reconciliation and harmony abound. And yet some things have gotten worse. From “white guilt” (college indoctrination that preaches every white student is a racist deep down inside) to “black privilege” (flash mobs of violent black teens that go unidentified by news media) to the intra-racism of the NAACP (a civil-rights-for-the-biggest-donor outfit that denounces any black conservative who dares to think like a victor instead of a victim) to calls for slavery reparations (will this include all of the Irish indentured servants, too?)…America has a self-induced race issue. In churches, in schools, in Hollywood, and in mainstream media our culture constantly reminds itself that we’re different, and our hyphenations prove it. Our fixation with such superficiality only leaves deep wounds.

Humankind’s proclivity toward denying the humanity of others seems endless. Whether it’s discrimination based on pigmentation, gender, or age (from the unborn to the elderly), it seems we cannot grasp that we’re all one race. Every human life deserves justice. Sure, it took Democrats 100 years to catch on to the civil rights efforts of the Republican party. Sadly it will take the inept GOP establishment 100 more years to convince minorities that it is the party of Lincoln.

But no party will ever solve what ails the soul.

These words spoken by Martin Luther King, never repeated by mainstream media or so-called “intellectual elites”, powerfully remind us how we can truly defeat racism: “Let us be dissatisfied, until the day, when nobody will shout White power…when nobody will shout Black power…and everybody will talk about God’s power and Human power!”

This Independence Day I honor those who’ve given their lives for our Liberty whether on Normandy Beach or on the balcony of a Memphis motel. My hope is that our nation has a renewed desire for freedom that can never be secured in a conventional battle but a spiritual one. I thank the God who created us equally—red, yellow, black and white.

RyanBombergerRyan Bomberger is the co-founder and chief creative officer of the Radiance Foundation.

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