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How far do we still need to go after civil-rights act?

Published: Sat, July 5, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

While I was on vacation, I watched the first part of CNN’s “The Sixties” series, which dealt with the Civil Rights movement and a look back at the signing of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As a baby boomer, I grew up watching on television the atrocities suffered by black people who only wanted to live as equals in a country that generally had labeled dark-skinned people as second-class citizens.

As I watched the show and heard commentary from those who participated in the struggle for racial equality, I couldn’t help but think that despite the advancements that have been made over the last 50 years, there is still much work left to be done.

I am not trying to be negative. We have a biracial president receiving flak from conservatives and liberals. The city of Youngstown has had a black mayor, and the mayors of Warren and McDonald are black. And some blacks — and they are few — are CEOs of major corporations.

But as I watched the CNN documentary, I couldn’t help but think about the madness and sheer stupidity of denying someone basic rights to get a drink of water, use the bathroom, sit down for a meal at a lunch counter, vote and have top-notch educational opportunities, simply because of the color of his or her skin.

I watched John Lewis, now a U.S. congressman, but back in the 1960s a young man who was at the forefront of the civil-rights struggle, get beat down on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. He said he thought he was going to die that day.

I listened as Alabama governor George Wallace valiantly declared, “Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.”

I listened to white people use the N-word as casually as they take a breath of air, not realizing, nor caring, about how their attitudes impacted a race of people.

I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give an interview that the hatred and sheer anger he experienced in Cicero, Ill., when he led a protest for equal housing in that community, was worse than anything he experienced in the deeply segregated South.

I grew up on the East Side of Youngstown. I lived in an integrated neighborhood with other blacks, Irish Catholics, Lebanese, Puerto Ricans, Italians and those of Slovakian heritage. My family lived in a duplex next door to the Drummond family. A few doors down lived the Lyden family. A few homes away lived the Sinkoviches, the Agees, the Hollisters and the Hayeks. I didn’t recall any problems living on South Bruce Street.

But my parents reminded me and my siblings that some of the things happening in the South also were happening in Youngstown.

They told me about Lincoln Park having two pools — one for blacks and one for whites. They told me that Kiddieland at Idora Park amusement park was once a pool in which blacks weren’t allowed to swim. Why was there a need for a black YMCA on what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard? Blacks couldn’t get membership at the downtown YMCA on North Champion Street.

When Simeon Booker, Youngstown native and award-winning journalist, spoke here last year, he talked about the prejudice he and other black students experienced at Youngstown College, now Youngstown State University.

When the new homes were being built in what is called the Lincoln Knolls area on the East Side, blacks weren’t welcome. They could, however, rent apartments at the new Kennedy Park Terrace (now called ESA Park Apartments), located off Oak Street.

I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve been told some areas of Youngstown had clauses in property deeds that they would not sell their homes to blacks.

The documentary also pointed out the large number of white people who willingly chose to end America’s apartheid, including two young white men who were murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

This is an important fact young black people need to remember. You cannot condemn a race of people for what a few have done to you.

I appreciated the statement from Connie Hathorn, Youngstown schools superintendent, when discussing his upbringing in segregation in a story that appeared in our paper last week. “I don’t hate anybody in the white race, because the white race didn’t do this to me. Individuals did this to me,” he said about those who tormented him because of his skin color.

Sadly, there is always going to be racism and bigotry in our society. The call for a dialogue between whites and blacks on the issue of race has been going on for decades.

In our politically correct society we live in today, it is hard to have such discussions. If you criticize black people, and you are white, you are a racist. If you are black and agree with a point made by a white person, you are an “Uncle Tom” or a sellout. If you disagree with a person’s lifestyle choice, you are intolerant.

But if we don’t have that conversation in a meaningful way, without any preconceived ideas or agendas, the divide between the races won’t close.

Affirmative Action is on its last legs. Less than 5 percent of those working in the high-tech Silicon Valley are either black or Latino. New laws are on the books to try to keep blacks from voting, nearly 50 years after the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The United States remains the world’s greatest experiment. We are a melting pot of cultures, people and religions. But we are all Americans, and that should be the one thing we hold on to and build from.

I wonder, 50 years from now, if we will ever learn to embrace our similarities and accept our differences.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com.


1JoMarko(49 comments)posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Hmmm, imaginary racism?

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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2borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Keep living in the past and keep teaching black children how bad some white people are (they won't know which white people), and see if that helps their future. How long must you be a victim? What satisfaction do you and Mr. Hathorn get being a victim? Be glad you're living in America, where everyone has a chance to succeed, if they really want to. Forget slavery and forget the fifties, they're gone. Gone.

And don't say white people don't know what it's like to not be free and not be able to go into certain places. Try as a white person to walk through any inner city neighborhood in a America.

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3tnmartin(234 comments)posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

if one may make a modest suggestion, is it not long past the time where we may assess our fellows based upon the content of their character and not the color of their skin? I seem to recall a very famous speech where that line was used.
But now we are told that we MUST assess others on the color of their skins. That's the "reasoning" behind all the Affirmative Action stuff. We must, for example, permit some school kids to behave in ways that prevent their classmates from learning, lest we employ color-blind disciplinary procedures that, sorry, lead to "disproportionate impact" with respect to certain "protected classes". Really.
In fact, the whole concept of "protected classes" flies in the face of equal justice, yet the slimy thug named Eric Holder and his co-thieves threaten the full weight of the federal Stasi against those who intend to employ color-blind standards.
How about we speak openly and honestly of the fact that a white person is about four times more likely to be a victim of an attack by a black person, than a black person is to be the victim of an attack by a white. It's not a secret. And that's ignoring for the moment that a Hispanic will be classed as white if an assailant, but black if a victim. Also not a secret, but you won't hear Obama or NBC mentioning it.
Perhaps we could also mention some cultural issues. Like the hideous rate of illegitimacy in the black community, and with no shame attached. Why is that? It makes for a lousy community, and raises a generation of thugs and 30-year-old grandmothers.
Yet to hear some speak, it's still the height of the Jim Crow laws that the Democrats enacted in the Deep South or the big Klan detachment in Niles. Yet the Panthers get a pass for voter intimidation.

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4papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months, 1 week ago

repubs in congress and the tea party have proven that racism is alive and well in America. their treatment of our first black president has been despicable, to put it mildly. I don't have to go into detail for anyone who has been following politics. president Obama could have accomplished much with the help of repubs in congress. in years to come the sad truth will come out and he will be seen as a great president who stopped wars instead of starting them and tried to help the middle class and the poor. I am 66 years old and white.

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5borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months, 1 week ago

papa, I 'm hoping for Dr. Ben Carson to run for president, and I would vote for him to become our next president. Would you vote for him?

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6papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

borylie, I've heard his name haven't seen him. where can I find him? is he on fox? I don't watch fox.

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7borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

papa, You don't need to say you don't watch FOX News, it's obvious. The only things you and other liberal/democrats know is what they want you to know. This is why the left is afraid of FOX News, they can't stop them from letting people from hearing things they don't want you to know. But, back to Dr. Ben Carson. He's a black man who appears to be very qualified to be president. So, I don't think I'm a racist since I would vote for Dr. Ben Carson. You must ask yourself, since you accused us repubs of not approving of President Obama because he is a black man, if you don't vote for Dr. Ben Carson is it because he's a black man?

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8papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

borylie, I would like to hear what he has to say. when is he on?

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9borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

papa, What does it matter what he says? You're calling us repubs racists for not agreeing with President Obama because he's black. Not because of his lack of presidential leadership. So if you want to accuse repubs of racism because we're white and he's black as our reason for not supporting him, then you and most lib/democrats must be racist if they don't support Dr. Ben Carson.
Dr. Ben Carson appears on many news channels, but for ease of learning about this man, please Google Dr. Ben Carson and self educate yourself.

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10borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

dontbeafool, Not steivo, but token or not he's still black and us repubs would vote for him. Why is he qualified? Common sense ideas and his mind wasn't shaped by some radicals. Dontbeafool., it appears you're already not supporting Dr. Ben Carson. Is it because he's black or because he's not a lib/democrat and it doesn't matter how qualified he is? Your mind is already made up.

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11borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

dontbeafool, I'll tell you and papa straight up, president Obama's views are way too far to the left and he didn't have any leadership responsibilities in his career. Now, does this still make me a racist for not liking President Obama's policies and views? If I understand this correctly, steivo,myself and other repubs are racist because we don't like our President because he's black,but you,papa and lib/democrats are not racist for not liking a conservative black man? Whew!

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12borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

One more question for you dontbeafool, which one of his views is way too far right? And you don't need political experience if you know how to lead and your a problem solver.

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13borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

dontbeafool, you stated that Dr.Ben Carson's views were way too far right. Please tell me which view. I never used the word every.

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14borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

dontbeafool, Thanks for the decent back and forth. I'd bet if you took a test on conservative and liberal views, you'd find out your closer to being a conservative than a liberal. Take care.

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15papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

borylie, dr. ben carson is fox news and the far rights' proof that their not racist. do you believe that the repub party will have a black nominee for president in your lifetime? the day of obamas' inauguration op repub leaders, including mconnel, met privately and agreed to block anything Obama brought before congress. not knowin what it might be. and they've done exactly that, to the detriment of America. this congress has a lower rating than cockroaches. he has made healthcare available to all, lowered unemployment, created nine million jobs, cut the deficit in more than half. you won't hear this on fox news. he's fighting for equality in pay for women, raising the minimum wage. no other American president has been treated with such hatred and disrespect as Obama. if you think color has nothing to do with it, you're a fool. this era in the American presidency will go down as a dark time in politics. God save us from haters, liars, and low information voters!!

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16borylie(790 comments)posted 2 months ago

papa, you must live in a big clock.

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17papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

the only thing we export are American jobs. Obama tried to pass "the American jobs act" creating one million jobs. guess what? repubs said no. and Boehner has the balls to ask, "where are the jobs?" there despicable!! I would vote for Elizabeth warren in a heartbeat!

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18tnmartin(234 comments)posted 2 months ago

one suspects that the only thing in the universe dumber than an Establishment Republican, is a Democrat. Are you guys on a low-oxygen/high carbon monoxide gas mask routine? Or do you breed for stupidity? is it a genetic mutation?

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19papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

steivo, it's not the jobs act, it was the "American Jobs Act", and Boehner wouldn't even put it n the floor for a vote. but they'll vote 50 times to repeal obamacare, which would prevent greedy insurance companies from cancelling ones policy when they get some dreadful desease, enable people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance. peoples premiums may go up a little but they will have good coverage instead of the junk policies that cover very little. the repubs even balked at the highway funding bill. get online and check out the bridges and roads in china, japan, and Europe. Americas' are crumbling and they don't care. big pharma and big oil companies run this country. bp and exxon make billions and we subsidize them with our taxes! and they OWN the repub party. like I said, they're despicable!

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20handymandave(474 comments)posted 2 months ago

President Obama couldn't have treated blacks worse if the Presidency were held by a founding KKK member. He's left them jobless, hungry, and clueless since the time of his swearing in and still to this day has over half of the black community hoodwinked. He's a regular genius that Obama.

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21papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

the proceeding two comments were made by low information voters. also known as republicans. right-wing nutjobs, neocons, take your pick. they hate big government, so they say, and yet they say nothing about beefed up police forces, some who commit crimes. a man was choked into a lethal heart attack in nyc the other day for selling single cigaretts on the street. another "hero in blue" beat a mentally challenged woman on the side of the highway. national crime stats are the lowest in 30 years yet police brutality is rising. why aren't the teabaggers railing against these atrocities? they hate big government until a tornado blows their town away. then they want fema. anyone who thinks that insurance companies are serving the American people great aren't needing many prescription drugs. when they tell a cancer patient, "you've reached your limit on chemotherapy, we're going to have to cancel you. these insurance criminals have now been brought under control and I love it! and why don't we talk about the repub governors who won't expand Medicaid, ensuring that many will die from lack of care? like I said, repubs are despicable!! and by theway stievo, Obama has cut the deficit in more than half but boner won't tell you that, or faux news!

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22Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 2 months ago

As a white middle aged man, I say 'Right On' Ernie Brown Jr. Great article.

"But if we don’t have that conversation in a meaningful way, without any preconceived ideas or agendas, the divide between the races won’t close."

-I am in total agreement, especially if we can have a bit of a laugh or two as we go.

I very much appreciate your articles.

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23papa1(662 comments)posted 2 months ago

stievo, polls are meaningless, they change from hour to hour. 20 million people have signed up for obamacare.and we'll continue to call it that and make the repubs regret the day they coined it.. 20 million, including many young people. 20 million and climbing. why do you think repubs no longer talk about it and have more votes to repeal it? anyone who doesn't want everyone to have access to good healthcare is devoid of compassion for their fellow man, they have no soul. you won't hear the truth on faux news. watch chris Mathews or ed Shultz some night on msnbc and listen to the truth. or are you afraid you might hear the truth?

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24oink272000(1 comment)posted 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Civil Rights growth will always be stunted until trying a case in the Supreme court costs $10,000 dollars. The people that need relief cannot afford it. Compare that cost with the average court cost to see any other type judge in a court. Then you will see the Racial Injustice..

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