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Perception is different but same

Editorial by Dawn Burleigh

 

The Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 and signed into law on August 6, effectively ending literacy tests and a host of other obstacles used to disenfranchise African American and other minority citizens.

Yet, here we are in 2016 still fighting for equality between races.

A recent Facebook post written by a white woman who adopted black children spoke of the discrimination she faces daily. One reference she made was when an acquaintance commented her, then two-year-old son, was a ‘cute little thug’. I was appalled and more than offended as I read the comment. A child is not a thug! A child is a living, breathing, human being curious about the world and dreaming of flying like birds or how to float like a cloud.

I spoke with a mother Friday morning. As mothers, we share common dreams and goals. We want our children to be safe. We want the best for them. We want them to have more than we had growing up.

She described to me the feelings she had recently as she worried about her son who was late returning from work. Feelings, I at first, thought I could relate to as I too have wondered why my child was late returning home.

However, her primary concern was if the police ‘got him’. My concerns were if my child had been mugged. The difference between us was the color of our skin.

It opened my eyes to the difference in perception.

While I was raised to perceive law enforcement officers are there to help me in my hour of need, others were raised to be leery and untrusting.

Looking over the history of the civil rights movement, it is easy to see why.

The Supreme Court, in 1968, in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (Virginia), ruled that “actual desegregation” of schools in the South is required, effectively ruling out so-called school “freedom of choice” plans and requiring affirmative action to achieve integrated schools.

One must wonder why it took three years between the Voting Rights Act and desegregation of schools.

But 51 years after the Voting Rights Act and 48 years after desegregation, I would have hoped further progress of equality in society.

In August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., in his I Have a Dream speech, said, “And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

These words come to mind as I learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement.

King’s speech is as important today as then. Reading it again Friday morning, reminds me how much more work we need to do as a society to reach true equality between races and find true value in oneself.

Dawn Burleigh is editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at 883-3571 or dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com