Minorities and civil rights have a rather interesting history, but it’s a story about our future hope. In the 1960s, the Civil Right Act as passed when the American Congress made it possible for some notable changes to occur in our society that had far reaching implications. Through this act, it was now possible to inspect voter registration rolls, prohibit discrimination, on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It also tried to ensure there was equity in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
Some persons like Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000), who was a poet, teacher, and the first black to win the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1950, thought, “When you use the term minority or minorities in reference to people, you’re telling them that they’re less than somebody else.” For a Christian, love is the greatest virtue, and there ought to be no distinctions between persons of different races. Whether we like it or not, Americans are still classified as belonging to a particular minority.
Media and Civil Rights
The Civil Rights Movement (1955 – 1968) was in full swing and its aim was abolishing discrimination. Its successes were made possible to the sights and sounds of TV, church groups, protestors, and sympathizers. Viewers were able to witness brutality against demonstrators, sit-ins, freedom riders, marches, and clashes with the national guard, depictions which impacted our national conscience. The Black Power Movement (1968 – 1980) endeavored to counter stereotypes about blacks, while trying to instill dignity in its race, by pushing for economic, and political parity.
In the late 1960s, came the 11-member Kerner Commission appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973), in response to the riots in American cities. A national Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders attempted to find out what really happened. What caused the riots? What could have be done to prevent future occurrences? What was media’s role in the unrest? How well did it serve blacks?
The Kerner Commission concluded that the media failed in its mission to the black community. It was felt that America was moving towards two separate societies – one white, and the other black, which were unequal. The media failed to report the underlying problems which led to the riots. There was a predominant presentation of while images to the detriment of blacks. The culture, history and activities of blacks were ignored, and the mass media was considered shockingly backward in its coverage of issues.
Whether we like it, or not, Americans share a common destiny. Ron Kind (b. 1963), who did serve as the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 3rd congressional district, and a member of the Democratic Party, feels, “For as long as the power of America’s diversity is diminished by acts of discrimination and violence against people just because they are black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Muslim or gay, we still must overcome.” With prayer and perseverance, Americans have come a long way, since that time. Now they are examples of blacks being more visible, having a voice in government, business, the world, and national affairs. With the election of President Barack Obama (b. 1961), to the White House, some conditions have changed for the better, but blacks are still viewed as perpetrators of drug and criminal offenses disproportionally to whites. Black leaders are often seen criticizing government, the media, for these failures, and pointing out police brutality.
It’s true, we’ve passed the stage of being seen as “window dressing,” alluded to by the United States Commission for the Study of Civil Rights (1977), but women and minorities still have a way to go, to be equal in America. It was Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India, who observed, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Christians must continue promoting the goodness of all people. Our world and spiritual future depend on the efforts, of all ethnic groups.