This weekend the nation is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. The event is supposed to coincide with the completion of the memorial on the National Mall to Martin Luther King Jr. But what is left of the once great civil-rights movement has spent the summer preparing for the occasion by attempting to recapture the fervor of those bygone days of struggle by hyping new issues of concern. To listen to the racial hucksters that rail at us from their perches at MSNBC and other outposts of the liberal mainstream media, the difference between the America of 2013 and that of 1963 is merely superficial. They tell us that a country that could allow George Zimmerman to walk free in the killing of Trayvon Martin or that might ask citizens to produce a photo ID when voting is as racist as the racially segregated place that King and others denounced in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial five decades ago.
Demonstrating the utter falsity of this charge doesn’t require much effort. We can merely point to the fact that the America we live in has a black man as its president as well as its attorney general. Though it is not perfect or completely free of a variety of prejudices that still lurk in the hearts of some of us, it is a nation that has for the most part transcended its past. The basic rights demanded at the march have been granted. The south has changed, as has the north. Segregation is outlawed and blacks now freely vote in numbers that sometimes outpace that of whites. So it is a sign both of the enormous progress we have made in the last five decades as well as the bankruptcy of the groups that cling to the label of civil rights that the evidence of American racism is today reduced to arguments about a confusing case involving a Hispanic man claiming the right of self-defense and a voter integrity measure that is actually supported by most African-Americans. While it is fitting that the country should pause this week and remember the march as well as the heroism of those who struggled for civil rights, we do the memory of that effort no honor by confusing the genuine grievances it sought to redress with the trumped-up issues now put forward as evidence of official racism.
It should be specified that the plight of a significant portion of the contemporary African-American community is such that we might well wonder how much progress has been made since King memorably dreamed of an America where his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” But the severe challenges of poverty, family breakdown, gangs, and a pervasive culture of violence that is part of the creation of a near-permanent underclass is largely the result of the social pathologies that grew out of the welfare state that arose in the aftermath of the march, not white racism. That these problems were the unintentional result of good intentions gone awry rather than prejudice is ironic but it is one that is largely lost on the race hucksters.
Martin’s death was the result of a confusing and violent struggle between two members of minority groups. It was taken out of context and is now routinely characterized by pop icons like Oprah Winfrey as a modern Emmitt Till case. That Martin’s death is not remotely comparable to Till’s murder was obvious to anyone who watched any of Zimmerman’s televised trial during which not a scintilla of proof was produced about Zimmerman’s racism.
But that is just as true of the attempts by the Department of Justice to treat voter ID laws as a rerun of Jim Crow. The vast majority of African-Americans, like every other segment of American society, thinks there’s nothing wrong with asking people to be able to identify themselves when they vote. Common sense voter integrity measures seem reasonable to people that know that, unlike in 1963, nowadays one needs a photo ID to bank, buy cold medicine, or travel, let alone make any transaction with the government. Only those afflicted by the bigotry of low expectations think blacks are more incapable than other Americans of obtaining a free government ID if they don’t have a driver’s license or a passport.
The myth propagated by the left, and echoed by the Obama administration, that voter ID laws are racist is an attempt to racialize an issue that has nothing to do with prejudice against African-Americans. Whereas once civil rights meant an effort to prevent white racists from stealing elections via laws that literally stopped all members of some groups from voting, now it seems to mean preventing any effort to protect the integrity of the votes of all citizens.
The inappropriate rhetoric employed by Obama, Attorney General Holder and those charlatans like Al Sharpton who purport now to speak in the name of the cause of civil rights have debased the coinage of the rhetoric of freedom that was so nobly advanced by King and others at the march. The descent of the civil rights movement from outrage at genuine discrimination to false flag issues like Martin or voter ID shows have far this nation has come. But it also illustrates the irrelevance of that movement to the genuine problems that are faced today by African-Americans.