Many people have told me that I have an old soul. This may be true. I tend to retire early for bed, listen to NPR, and have a strong affinity for Motown music. Yesterday, I was listening to Donnie Hathaway’s song “Someday We’ll All Be Free”. The poignant ballad made really think about the concept of freedom. Was I really free in the “Age of Obama”? Has our country reached the apotheosis of equality? In some respects, it can be be argued that we have. It is no longer illegal for interracial couples to wed; women, for the most part, enjoy reproductive freedom; and immigrants are more incorporated in the United States polity than ever before. However, homosexuals are still treated like second-class citizens, policy brutality is still in an issue, and the incarceration rate of young Black and Latino men is too high. Are we really free? Or are we living in a guise of freedom, where high- ranking minorities fail to recognize institutional shortfalls for their own advancement?
The primary problem is that the concept of equal rights remains trapped in iconography of the 60s in the minds of many people and, therefore, is a project that takes on a “old” connotation with respect to the agenda, strategies, and tactics. However, the concept of equal rights or civil rights is defined as those rights that citizens in society enjoy that enable them to achieve their respective individual and group goals. Since Blacks enjoyed those rights unequally, the primary goal of the 60s struggle was to establish, through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the principle of anti-discrimination and equality in the use of federal resources across the board.
This historical summary is just a part of the “pathway” to freedom” and doesn’t look as if it was focused on only one thing – political rights – but rather a wide range of rights. Even today there are those who would have you believe that there is a distinction between civil rights and human rights. Civil rights are human rights. The view of those who began the movement in the 30s was to stop lynching and the remnants of slavery; to attempt to close the gaps in pay between Blacks and Whites, and demand equal access to college and law school by bring lawsuits in court. Thus, the definition of equal rights changes with each age.
We are living today in the age of fads and quick changes in concept and culture for the sake of it. Pushed along by generational change and the technologies used to commercialize “newness” and deprecate “oldness.”
Civil rights are not old. They exist where there are gaps between Blacks and other disadvantaged groups and the dominate society. Such gaps exist where 48 percent of Blacks are incarcerated; where the Black/White wealth gap is now 14 to 1; where whites own homes at 70 percent and Blacks at 45 percent; where health gaps in major illnesses persists and Blacks disproportionately do not have health insurance; and where poverty reigns for 30-40 percent to such an extinct that it impacts on educational performance, crime and other aspects of life for many.
(While handcuffed, Juan Perez was kicked in the face by a police officer. However, the State Attorney’s Office in Sarasota, Florida did not file battery charges against the police officer.)
Institutional leaders such as the new Black race-neutral mayors in Newark and Washington and other cities are held as the preferred style of leader. They are viewed as acolytes of Barack Obama’s race neutral management of his campaign and style of governance when he took office. However the lack of civility recently seen across this country, and even in the hallowed halls of Congress in discussions on health care and immigration serve to remind us all that the struggle for equal rights continues. Are you free?