I was a kid living overseas during the height of the civil rights movement in the late sixties and early seventies. I'm still not sure whether I consider myself lucky to have been away during that tumultuous period, or that I somehow missed out. I consider myself a progressive, even brave person and I'd like to believe that if the need had presented itself, I would've been right out there, waving a sign and doing my best to stick it to The Man with all the other angry, idealistic people.
Civil rights, or rather the idea of civil rights, seems so basic, so much of a no-brainer, that it shouldn't even still be an issue. But, of course, it is. We've all heard a variation of the story about how someone's cousin's best friend's wife's sister didn't get a job someplace doing some-such-thing because they were white and a minority quota had to be met because of Affirmative Action. That may be so. And it's unfortunate. No one should be denied employment because of their color. (I almost used the word 'race', but we're all one race, right? Anyone out there not human?) Truth be told, Affirmative Action is tantamount to reverse discrimination. But at that time in this country, discrimination was so pervasive that bigots had to be forced, by law, not to engage in racist practices, at least in the workplace. Rocky Redneck had to hire black folk whether he wanted to or not, sometimes to the detriment of his company (too bad, Rock).
That was then. And this is now.
Reading, listening, watching, thinking. As I've gotten older and experienced more, something has continued to bug me. How equal is equal? And what exactly do pundits mean when they claim they seek equality? Black civil rights activists have fought being singled out in a negative way in favor of being singled out in a positive way. But why be singled out at all? In an effort to foment inclusion, activism has perpetuated exclusion, even separatism. There was a time when the black community in this country had to band together and toot their own horn because no one else would. But in this day and age, why is it okay to have 'black' colleges, or 'black' night clubs, or 'black' TV shows? If an institution openly touted itself as being 'white', they'd be considered racist. When blacks do it, it's socially acceptable as 'black pride'.
I'm not saying that prejudice doesn't still exist. I'm not saying that there isn't still work to be done. But how long does the current generation of white people need to be held accountable for what their great-great-great-great ancestors did? How long should black people feel that they're still "owed" something? At some point, a generation needs to say, "Enough."
Enough with the separatism. Enough with the sense of entitlement. If blacks want to be truly integrated into all aspects of mainstream society, the exclusivity needs to stop. To be clear, my opinion is as an observer and participant, not as an authority. I'm not a journalist or a cultural anthropologist, I'm just a guy who believes a little modernization of the civil rights dogma is overdue. Just as the U.S. Constitution was written nearly 250 years ago and has since been amended dozens of times to address changing times, the thinking of the 60s needs to progress wholly into the current millennium. It's not okay for any group to continue to spout they're own ethnocentric rhetoric in the name of civil rights. Rule of thumb: If any group would be considered racist for saying something, no one else should say it either.
Rosa Parks fought for her own seat, not her own bus.