Enough about the Confederate flag. It’s a symbol. Hatred toward fellow man exists with or without symbols, with or without or racial delineations. Past and present human interactions around the world over recorded history exhibit this fact. We can take down and forbid the sale of every single Confederate flag or image and still not change what is fundamentally wrong with our society.
It will not bring the victims of the Charleston, South Carolina, massacre back, nor would previously prohibiting the flag’s existence necessarily have prevented their deaths.
And while we grown-ups emotionally cling to old race paradigms and obsess about flags, the first white child who will be able to sue for protection under affirmative action has already been born. That’s right — according to the latest Census statistics, 50.2 percent of children under the age of five are not white. White is the new majority minority. White is the new black.
I have long joked in private conversations that the only solution I see to the race problem in America is more mixing. Once majorities run the gamut of mocha shades, people will finally wake up and realize, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did in the year before his death, that the real issue is access to opportunity, to education, to jobs that provide a decent quality of life for all.
King’s words: “We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or Americans, Negroes or whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image.”
At the end of his life, King was growing disillusioned with the civil rights movement, and in 1967 he sought to change the focus of the movement toward poor people of all colors. This shift in focus was met with resistance within the Johnson administration and by resistance from some of his colleagues in the movement. Besides the online link, readers can look at the final chapters of “King Rembered” by Flip Schulke and Penelope McPhee.
His dream was about a day when people are “judged on the content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.” He foresaw a society that enabled all people to achieve, to contribute, to compete to the best of their ability. And at the end of his life, he began to see that the dream had to be about all people, not just blacks, even though blacks disproportionately struggle in America.
He referred to jobs being “costlier and harder to create than voting rolls. The eradication of slums housing millions is complex far beyond integrating buses and lunch counters,” according to Schulke and McPhee. More than 40 years later, the real fundamental issues needing change remain and are far more challenging than taking down flags.
Whether we address these fundamental issues or not, time will eventually force change, and the clock is ticking. Whether we like it or not, when the first parent of one of those under-5-year-olds sues for affirmative action protection, we will be forced to face our own foolhardiness. We will be forced to figure out why the nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population living below the poverty level in 1968 became just 12 percent in 2006.
We will be forced to look in mirrors and at policies instead of at flags. It would be nice if we could get there before those kids come of age. Personally I’m relieved to know the dynamics of race in America are changing in such a way that our dialogue will be forced to change, too. It’s high time we fulfilled King’s dream.