Monday, January 21, 2008

The Fight Against Racism and the 2008 Elections

By Joe Sims
In early July of 2007 the Supreme Court boldly struck down the legal underpinnings of Brown v. the Board of Education. In a five to four decision, the Republican majority on the court, overturned desegregation plans by school districts in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington. The ruling was seen as a landmark victory by the neo-conservative right in their efforts to undo the civil rights achievements of the 1960s. As Sharon Brown, lead lawyer for the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation, remarked to the New York Times, “These are the most important decisions on the use of race since Brown v. Board of Education …With these decisions, an estimated 1,000 school districts around the country that are sending the wrong message about race to kids will have to stop.”

Just a year earlier, voters in Michigan and Nevada had opted to prohibit state universities from using race as criteria in admissions. Armed with the Supreme Court ruling and momentum generated by ballot initiatives, opponents of equality hoped to spark a new movement. Indeed with airways filled with the venomous hate speech of Don Imus, Paris Hilton, Michael Richards and more recently geneticist James Watson, racism seemed to gain a new standing in pubic and private discourse, to say nothing of official policy.

Significant though they may be, these referendum and judicial rulings now seem only to have been the last dying eddies of a spent and exhausted Republican wave. In the same mid-term elections, voters angered by the Iraq war, aghast at threats to privatize Social Security, and alarmed by the suppression of the African American vote in the presidential election two years earlier, gave a sound thumping to Republican extremism. The electorate it seems had grown weary of the fear mongering, division, and thinly-disguised hate displayed by an undistinguished and undeserving right-wing minority. The country was calling out for a change of course.

The depth and scope of this call is strikingly exemplified by the candidacies of Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the two Democratic front runners, a status that by itself speaks volumes to how much things have changed. Voting patterns in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada suggest a new day is dawning in public perception and attitude. That such a shift in mass thought patterns could occur in the face of almost two decades of Republican rule is worthy of thought and consideration on this Martin Luther King day.

A half century of struggle has not been without results. The concept that all people share a common humanity has gained a strong foothold. Clearly, the civil rights movements, the King and Cesar Chavez holiday struggles, along with women's rights and LGBT, desegregation and affirmative action efforts have positively influenced mass consciousness about race and other democratic struggles. This must be seen as a major ideological victory. While many racial prejudices and practices abound, a majority oppose racism as they understand it. This victory is becoming a material force in this years election

1 comment:

normanmarkowitz said...

Right on , Joe. The forces of anti-racism and racism remain in conflict and even with the defeats there have been huge victoris over the last half century, the destruction of de jure segregation most of all. Racism is for the majority of people, as sociologists used to say, no longer "normal" and acceptable, so that racist comments and practices, whether they are endorsed or not, are merely shrugged off, as was true before the 1960s. But the war against racism, like the larger class war, is about strategic victories and defeats, gaining and losing ground. Right now, we have ground to regain.