Civil rights and wrongs

“By 1968, President Lyndon Johnson — a man brought into office by an assassin’s bullet — had already convinced Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act the following year,” states a Huffington Post editorial today.

“The bills put the full force of federal law behind the rights of black and other disenfranchised Americans to vote and use a wide variety of public facilities. But one other measure that Johnson and many civil rights activists saw as essential


— The Fair Housing Act — had languished in Congress for three years. In April of that year, Congress finally passed the bill. It was just days after another assassin’s bullet sliced through Martin Luther King Jr.’s neck and jaw, killing the civil rights leader in Memphis.

“Nearly 45 years later, the desire to memorialize King and his nonviolent struggle for a broad range of civil, labor and economic rights, has changed. Most notably, in some circles, civil rights work is publicly disparaged and described as the focus of opportunists and racists, according to historians, political scientists and social activists who spoke with Huffington Post this week. The climate around civil rights has shifted. Conditions often appear unfriendly, the experts said.

“This year, the Supreme Court is set to hear and decide cases that could rip the heart out of the Voting Rights Act, eliminate affirmative action in higher education admissions decisions and govern the ability of gay Americans to legally marry. But most public efforts to memorialize King and his work will focus largely on when and where to volunteer on the federal King holiday, rather than push for broad social change or expanded equality, said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights organization that uses technology and modern organizing tactics to challenge inequality, injustice and discrimination.”


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