by Shannon Williams
I was fortunate.
I was raised during a time when equal access to restaurants, movie theaters and swimming pools was the status quo. Though I would have certainly participated in them, during my lifetime I wasn’t involved in the sit-ins and regular NAACP and SCLC strategizing meetings.
Indeed, I was fortunate.
While I was very fortunate to have been raised in a post-civil rights era, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what those who lived during that time endured. My mother was great about educating me and my brother and sister on our history and exposing us to resources that further explained the trials and triumphs of our people. In addition, we also received good educational instruction from IPS (yes, I said IPS).
As a matter of fact, I often remember sitting in Elliott Segal’s U.S. history class at Broad Ripple High School intently watching “Eyes on the Prize.” It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the film, as my mother showed it to us years prior, but that day in class I was as engrossed in it as I always am when I view the powerful documentary.
Although I wasn’t exposed to the blatant discrimination and maltreatment that existed in the ’50s and ’60s, I know what occurred and I also know how wrong it was.
Too bad Rand Paul doesn’t.
Paul is the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Kentucky who was proudly backed by the Tea Party. During an editorial board meeting with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Paul was asked if he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”
When the interviewer reminded Paul that his stance would have allowed restaurants to deny service to Dr. Martin Luther King, Paul said he would criticize the lunch counter owner, but suggested it would be wrong to legally prohibit a business from discriminating.
“This is the hard part about believing in freedom,” said Paul.
In a separate interview on MSNBC, Paul said he agrees with most of the Civil Rights Act, with the exception of Title II. Title II made it a crime for private businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of race.
Perhaps Paul needs a refresher course on U.S. history and the effects racism has had on Americans. Maybe he needs to view documentaries such as “Eyes on the Prize” so that he can see how swimming pools were fenced so Blacks couldn’t enter or how Black men and women were mauled by police dogs in their pursuit of equal treatment. Paul should also visit some of the “Blacks only” cemeteries that were common after the first Africans arrived to America and remained after emancipation and, of course, during the civil rights era.
It would be wise of Rand Paul to look at the images of Blacks’ lifeless bodies hanging from trees with Whites smiling and cheering at their feet.
And while he’s at it, maybe he should remember the Black celebrities who were good enough to perform for Whites at high-end hotels, but not good enough to sleep at those same hotels.
While Paul gets a lesson on history, Blacks today need a lesson on the future. We need to realize that if we don’t participate in the political process or advocate for what we believe in, the trials of our past may soon be the realities of our future.
(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder.)