On May 17, 1954, in a landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The ruling was one of the most impactful steps for civil rights in U.S. history and a turning point in establishing the principle of racial equality in modern America.
Brown isn’t the only turning point that defied America. Another was when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white citizen and move to the back of the bus. Her brave act of defiance sparked the modern civil rights movement that culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act in 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Fast-forward to 2021 … have things really changed?
Today, the principles of equality are still under attack. We still see inequality in education and employment opportunities, housing, and in our civil & criminal justice systems. Every day, we see how white supremacy and systemic racism have created two Americas - the pandemic and January 6 insurrection at the Capitol are graphic examples. The tragic deaths of, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Anthony McLain, and others have laid bare the ultimate consequences of our 21st Century version of systemic racism.
There is one important way Black people can influence policies for meaningful change—they can VOTE. However, in the wake of Democratic success in the 2020 election, Republican-dominated states are passing voter suppression laws—Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have resorted to begging their colleagues to reinstate the Voting Rights Act.
While we have come a long way since Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, it isn’t enough.
Systemic racism is still the norm, not the exception. You must not be Black to believe that Black lives matter; the slogan does not identify or proclaim the virtues or wrongdoings of any specific social identity. It is an outcry for equal rights – for all people.
What can American citizens do?
Our first step must be to acknowledge the damage caused by a racist populace. Then, we must strive to do better, to work for equal justice for all, and eliminate prejudice and misconception. We must change the way we feel, think, what we say, and what we do, express our outrage at senseless race-based losses of life. No race is inferior to another.
We must raise our children to be color-blind—responsible citizens who won’t tolerate racism and bigotry We must recognize what Thomas Jefferson wrote almost two-hundred-fifty years ago: “All men [and women] are created equal.”