This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama march in 1965, where some 600 civil rights advocates were beaten with batons, hosed with water, chased down by police on horseback and bitten by police dogs as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Highway 80 all done by state order from then governor George Wallace. This bridge was named after a Confederate General in the Civil War and Grand Wizard Leader of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan.
George Wallace had declared that “segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation forever,” would be the way of life in Alabama forever. The 600 citizens were marching that day in 1965 for the right to vote in a state that would have Black citizens guess the number of bubbles in a bar of soap or cite the state constitution and pay a poll tax in order to register. Then if they were registered, the court clerk would call the landowner where the Black person lived and often sharecropped, and have them put off the land.
This was the same year I decided to take my young family back home to Trenton, North Carolina to meet all my family. My wife Cheryl did not know what to expect with all of the racial issues in the news but she took my word that we would be alright as long as we acted a certain way and did not venture off into certain areas. I did not let Cheryl know, but I did take some security measures so that just in case some isolated incident happened I would be able to defend my family like my dad had taught me. I did have some other concerns because I had just bought a new car to drive home and some people did not believe Blacks should have nice things or things better than what they had. We did not encounter any incidents or issues on the trip but I did show her the KKK sign on Highway 70 just outside Jones County that stated this is KKK Country.
This was also during the time when all our water came from a pump and the restroom was an outhouse. However, my Uncle Harry had indoor plumbing so Cheryl went down to their house. That is when I told my dad to get connected up with the city line if possible and we would cover the expenses. Yes, some things have changed.
As I watched the history being told on television and the current thousands of people of all races and religions gather to prove George Wallace wrong, economic segregation may still exist in Alabama but legal segregation based on race has been written off the books.
Today fifty years later we have some new George Wallace imitators all over the country trying to do the same thing; making it difficult for Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Indians, women, seniors, young adults, those who have committed a crime and paid their debt to society, those from the LGBT community to be full citizens in exercising their constitutional right to vote.
While all of this history is being commemorated we are trying to digest the current justice department report on the city of Ferguson. One finding the report confirmed was that Blacks are being charged and over charged for minor traffic violations that turn into warrants and jail time. The courts and the city council sanctioned this kind of action which funds the government that is oppressing the citizens.
This report was generated after the recent incident of a White police officer shooting and killing Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson. As I flipped the television channel to catch the local news, it was reported another unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in Madison, Wisconsin.
I comforted myself in the knowledge that God is still on the throne and we must remain committed to fighting for justice in the greatest country on the planet. It is worth fighting for because Jesus Christ came and gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. I thought of those who have fought before me, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, my parents Floyd and Essie Brown and of course Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others who have fought and are still fighting the good fight for freedom. My question to you today, tomorrow, and the future: Where do you stand and do you consider this and other civil rights and other unfair economic issues worth fighting for? If so, let your voice be heard.
Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of Black Voice News.