Happy anniversary: March on Washington

August 28 is a day to revere. Fifty years ago on that day, thousands of Americans marched on Washington, D.C., to protest racial discrimination and forced inequality in the U.S.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. Photo by Rowland Scherman, in public domain.

If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember the blatant racism of the South, where communities had signs like “White only” on public drinking fountains and restrooms. In the North, less obvious, but still powerful, racism determined who could go to good schools, live in desirable suburbs, and eat in restaurants of their choosing.

For those of you too young to remember efforts to extend constitutional rights to all Americans and the violent suppression of those efforts, here is a short but powerful video from PBS. Watch and weep. And here is a newsreel from the 1963 march, providing a very different story—one of triumph for nonviolent activism led by such great Americans as Martin Luther King Jr. Watch and rejoice!

It’s now five decades years later. Much has changed in regard to the laws of the land. Much of the blatant discrimination–like the “Whites only” signs–is gone. But to our enduring national shame, racism continues its ugly legacy in, for example:

If you favor justice over injustice, nonviolence over violence, and peace over war, then participate in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. For instance, join the “63 Minutes of Peace” campaign by doing something positive, peaceful, and productive for your community on August 28.

This fact endures: There will be no true peace without social justice.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

This entry was posted in Champions of peace, Human rights, Nonviolence, Protest, Tolerance and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Happy anniversary: March on Washington

  1. Gold dust twin says:

    During an earlier anniversary of the 1963 march, I received a letter from a friend who taught school in the all-Black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. She described her own involvement in a march. She noted that the leaders of the racially-mixed group in which she was participating assured the police that the marchers had every intention of remaining peaceful and causing no trouble. The police in turn emphasized the importance of the marchers remaining in an orderly line, with never more than two marchers abreast. They maintained that this procedure was necessary so that the marchers wouldn’t block anyone’s way on the sidewalk, but the marchers knew that the real reasonwas to ensure that the marchers remained spread out at all times and thus easier to control should trouble arise. The police also made it very clear that if the marchers failed to do exactly as they were told, the march would be broken up by force.
    Knowing the police were looking for any excuse to do exactly that, the marchers followed their directions exactly. After conferring briefly with each other, the men with bullhorns announced that everyone should hold hands with his or her partner to better keep the two lines straight and orderly. My friend heard her marching partner inhale sharply and suddenly realized the delicacy of their situation.
    In Mississippi in 1968, a black man could be killed for taking the hand of a white woman. Her young partner was unsure of what he should do, terrified of the potential response from the police just a few feet away. Without hesitation, my friend took the initiative and took his hand, showing all everyone that it was her choice to do so. Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

  2. kathiemm says:

    Sadly there has been another recent anniversary of an event–the overthrowing of the first democratically-elected President of Iran by rapacious foreign powers focused only on their oil interests–showing the operation of a morally disengaged military industrial complex. This excerpt from a post by Robert Sheer, available from truthdig.com, tells that story:
    “Robert Scheer’s Columns
    The Moment the U.S. Ended Iran’s Brief Experiment in Democracy
    By Robert Scheer
    Sixty years ago this week, on Aug. 19, 1953, the United States, in collaboration with Britain, successfully staged a coup in Iran to overthrow democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that a newly declassified CIA document reveals was designed to preserve the control of Western companies over Iran’s rich oil fields.
    The U.S. government at the time of the coup easily had manipulated Western media into denigrating Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable and an otherwise unreliable ally in the Cold War, but the real motivation for hijacking Iran’s history was Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Western-controlled oil assets in Iran. According to the document, part of an internal CIA report:
    “The target of this policy of desperation, Mohammad Mosadeq, [sic] was neither a madman nor an emotional bundle of senility as he was so often pictured in the foreign press; however, he had become so committed to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not have conceivably helped his people even in the best and most altruistic of worlds. In refusing to bargain—except on his own uncompromising terms—with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he was in fact defying the professional politicians of the British government. These leaders believed, with good reason, that cheap oil for Britain and high profits for the company were vital to their national interests.”
    There you have it, the smoking gun declaration of the true intent to preserve high profits and cheap oil that cuts through all of the official propaganda justifying not only this sorry attempt to prevent Iranian nationalists from gaining control over their prized resources but subsequent blood-for-oil adventures in Iraq and Kuwait. The assumption is that “the best and most altruistic of worlds” is one that accommodates the demands of rapacious capitalism as represented by Western oil companies.”

    To read the rest of Scheer’s essay, go to http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_moment_the_us_ended_irans_brief_experiment_in_democracy_20130819/

  3. kathiemm says:

    Torture takes place in US prisons, on a population disproportionately black. The only way many prisoners have found to bring attention to some of the torture (particularly solitary confinement) is to stage a hunger strike. Now they are being tortured for not eating. Learn more: visit http://www.stopmassincarceration.net/content/emergency-call-stop-torture-us-prisons .

  4. Gold Dust Twin says:

    One of the saddest aspects of these terrible truths is that the average Joe or Joanne simply wouldn’t believe them. Torturing helpless victims by placing them in solitary confinement? Force feeding them? Oh no, such barbarous practices occur in violent societies, but never in this exemplary United States of America. It’s nothing short of slander, folks, those deaf ears and closed minds would maintain with their last breath.
    Unless it happened to them.

  5. barbara says:

    For more information about continuing inequality, particularly economic inequality, this article in the Atlantic is very useful:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/the-maddening-unmoving-economic-gap-between-blacks-and-whites/279151/

  6. Rehana Rahman says:

    With the abolition of slavery, we have seen a shift from explicit racism to implicit racism. We see the effect of this in the U.S. penal system with the rise of institutional racism that results in discriminatory practices. Some people will say that due to the abolition of racism and the civil rights movement subsequent events are racism-free, that there is a level playing field. Institutional racism plays a fine line towards increased prejudice. If people accept bureaucratic measures toward violence, a never ending cycle of violence will ensue.
    It’s no wonder the U.S. had accepted slavery and for so long, considering that there is an existing culture of violence at play. When we study Microsystems of violence, we can identify the numbers of child victims who are subjected to physical maltreatment. When we consider structural problems of society, we begin to notice a trend, that “this acceptance of violence can perpetuate the physical maltreatment of children” (Hines & Malley-Morrison, Family Violence in the United States, 39). Cultural norms of violence, once accepted, have effects of child rearing practices, defined predominately by physical maltreatment (Hines & Malley-Morrison, Family Violence in the United States, 39). Such norms are cultivated and passed on from generation to generation, resulting in nation-wide acceptance of violence towards individuals of various backgrounds. Not only does society have an important role in shaping the individual, the individual too shapes the society.
    Cultural norms of violence begin at the individual level: children who are subjected to maltreatment internalize violence as an acceptable means of communication. In Family Violence in the United States, Hines & Malley-Morrison indicate that “corporal punishment is strongly associated with many negative behaviors, including less moral internalization; more aggression; more delinquent, criminal, and antisocial behavior…” (50). Children who were physically maltreated are at risk for maltreating their children (Hines & Malley-Morrison, 49).
    Consequently, little effort has been made in the form of reparations to the African American community. African Americans face a multitude of discrimination in housing, education and employment. Policies helped Whites post WWII with the GI Bill which offered them education and housing loans, but at the same time, denied Black GIs similar opportunities (Desmond & Emirbayer, Racial Domination, Racial Progress). Subsequently, practices of redlining forced Blacks into urban inner cities with limited opportunities. African Americans still face blatant racism every day, in some places more than others. It’s not surprising that there are high rates of incarceration among young Black men and subsequent rates of recidivism.
    Child maltreatment has long term effects not only children, but on society as well, resulting in an acceptance of violence. Formulating intervention programs for maltreated children can help to reduce aggressive behaviors due to physical affliction. Hines & Malley-Morrison point to longitudinal studies demonstrating that “children who were not spanked improved their behavior over a two-year time period…” (Family Violence in the United States, 50).

    • Dahlia Wasfi says:

      Very insightful statement about how “we have seen a shift from explicit racism to implicit racism.” Racism is “institutionalized.” I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard very good things about Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
      http://newjimcrow.com/

  7. Divij Patwardhan says:

    Fifty years ago the racism and oppression in America was directed mostly towards the African American community. This community suffered through complete dehumanization and were considered material objects rather than people.
    This injustice was finally abolished but still resides in today’s society in subtle ways. The cracks in the judicial system often let individual beliefs to come in between the law. In one of my previous posts I refer to the fact that “individuals who kill Whites are more than 3 to 4 times as likely as individuals who kill Blacks and Latinos to be sentenced to death.” (Hines & Malley-Morrison, Family Violence in the United States 2, 2013). This shows an unconscious prejudice that takes place when considering such cases. There is no just law in the world that states some people are much more important or valuable compared to others just because of their racial background.
    After all the violence and prejudicial practices, even today, towards a community is hazardous. “In contemporary America, ongoing, institutionalized racism, workplace discrimination, and limited opportunities put these cultural values at risk and Black hatred of White mistreatment can spill over and poison relationships within the Black community” (Malley-Morrison & Hines, Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective, 2004, Chapter 6, Page 107). This quote perfectly sums up my views towards such racial behavior.
    This sort of discrimination will indirectly if not directly cause problems such as family violence in such communities. Peace needs to be internalized by a country because it will not hold on long if there is no unity within itself or between itself and other countries.

  8. Jiyoung Won says:

    It saddens me to know that despite so many decades of effort made by a number of influential figures to put an end to racism, it still exists today in different parts of the country. Some of us don’t even realize that we learn to have a racist mindset, ingrained from an early age, whether it is through social interactions, social cues, or social knowledge.

    Racism affects people in many different ways and on various levels. One important aspect of racism that is often overlooked is its significance in child maltreatment and abuse. Studies have reported evidences of “Black parents reporting higher levels of severe physical aggression against their children than White parents do,” and a higher incidence rate of child neglect in the African American family communities compared to other ethnicities (Malley-Morrison and Hines, 2004, p.120).

    In addition, the angle of racism applied to child maltreatment cases that I found most intriguing was the study that revealed “physicians are more likely to report Black families than White families for suspected abuse,” and that “Black families […] are more likely to be reported to CPS than White families” (Malley-Morrison and Hines, 2004, p.120). This shows that racism does still exist and impact people in their everyday lives – particularly when it comes to making judgments and creating stereotypes. Another study also supported that there is evidence of “differential patterns of over- and underreporting based on type of abuse” (Malley-Morrison and Hines, 2004, p.118). This data revealed that there may be “greater willingness to interfere in Black families when sexual abuse is suspected,” but a much less concern for these children’s education needs.

    It is deeply concerning that many people in the United States assume that racism has reached an end because of the elimination of the more obvious segregation symbols and laws. I believe it is important that people recognize the continued existence of racism that occurs in our everyday lives and the thoughts we form based on these racism stereotypes. Without this recognition, we can’t take further steps to continue making great efforts to out an end to racism.

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