Monday, August 11, 2008

Generational race issues today

An interesting article in the New York Times provided some food for thought about the many different perspectives related to race and politics.

The young...the old. We each have different experiences.

Do we transcend race issues or do we embrace them and deal with them head on?

If you follow race issues, the younger generation, in general, is presented as devaluing what has happened in the past. We didn't grow up in the Civil Rights Era. We didn't participate in the violence, nor were we the recipients of being beaten for the sake of freedom. We don't understand what that was like and, thus don't revere that experience (for lack of a better word) as much as we should.

What many of us don't realize is the Civil Rights happenings aren't that far removed from many people and the wounds are still open and tender.

As I watched the documentary, Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later, I watched MinniJean Brown-Trickey (one of the original "Little Rock Nine") get choked up and emotional as she walked up to Central 50 years after she had helped integrate it. The pain from the verbal and physical abuse she endured is still as real to her today as it was 50 years ago.

As I watched CNN's Black in America, I watched another man (probably in his 50s or early 60s) react the same way when asked to recall his childhood. The hurt from inhumane atrocities do not just go away.

But I also think about some of these Civil Rights era leaders who have charged that Barack Obama, and other young African-American leaders for that matter, "aren't Black enough" because they are working to transcend and move beyond race. The new leaders want people to see them as good candidates...good leaders, not good *black* candidates or good *black* leaders.

Isn't that what the Civil Rights leaders fought for...for people to see everyone as people? Isn't it because of the struggle and sacrifice of our Civil Rights era leaders that we are to this point in our history in the first place? Should we continue trying to hold on to the past...or is there a new current we should be embracing?

Just to be clear...I think we owe it to our elders and leaders of the past to never forget history and never forget what they endured. I also think we have to recognize that race issues have not disappeared. Race issues are still very prevalent in our society, despite what many want to admit. But, at the same time, maybe we need do to consider that a new conversation is relevant for this generation.

I, too, get frustrated when it seems we have written off the older leaders and their approach. I don't think that people of color should have to "assimilate" or ignore their culture and their experiences in order to be seen as great leaders. I think the new conversation and the new era we enter needs to acknowledge and learn from the past...recognize and own up to the issues of the present...and create conversations and enact change that will allow us to have an even more equitable future.

Click on the title of this post. Read the article. I'd like to hear your reactions.
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