Saturday, 24 August 2013

Things Have Changed Somewhat, But Not Enough in Fifty Years

Shortly after I arrived back in in Bloomington, Indiana following the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago next Wednesday, I went to the nearest Western Union office to send a dispatch to the Daily Californian in Berkeley.

The following fall I was going to be editor, and as such, got a trip to the National Student Association's annual convention that was held at Indiana University.  A friend (a wheeler-dealer in student politics) and I hitched a ride on a bus from a church in Indianapolis to the march, and I promised the guys back in Berkeley that I'd tell them what I saw.

Needless to say I saw a lot: hundreds of thousands of folks--mostly African Americans, but many of us white bread types--protesting the sorry state of civil rights in the US at the time.  (See Louis Menand's excellent article in July 8, 2013  New Yorker for a succinct account as well as what happened afterwards "The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act")

Probably the same mix is there today, which is apparently the official commemoration of the event.  There are Twitter feeds, and Facebook comments, and all the media have up to the minute coverage, if you're wondering what's happening.   And there's a man of colour in the White House which was absolutely unthinkable that long ago.

But remember the other part of the March's theme: a demonstration for jobs.  In terms of income distribution, the US is no more egalitarian than it was then.  The big difference is that the poor come in all colours today.

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