By now, you've seen hundreds of pictures from the fight for African American civil rights. No matter if it was from the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, or contesting the occupation of blacks at all white lunch counters, the narrative was often similar. However, sprinkled throughout those relics of racial oppression in the South, the most overlooked contribution to the systemic culture of evil are the ill-fated youth through which the hatred was spread.
Regardless if they were bystanders to racial epithets being hurled at students seeking equality on public transportation, or on the front lines with white parents challenging the quest for educational inclusiveness, these children absorbed every ounce of negative energy emitted from this repulsive era in American history. What may be even more disturbing is that that generation of oppression's babies has turned into today's old bigots. While most of those nefarious grown-ups are likely long gone, there ill-willed spirits still linger in the souls of their offspring. Fifty years later, it is that same ill will that fuels the re-emergence of racial tension, oppressive laws, and cultural intolerance that plagues our nation today.
"It starts at the home"...
Hatred is an emotion that is cultivated. It is allowed to fester, its nurtured. Racism is no different. Although schools were ordered desegregated in 1954, in most Southern states, Brown didn't fully take hold until two decades later. The result? As parents, school districts, and local and state governments fought tooth and nail to hold on to their bigoted way of life, their youth were socialized and educated in intolerance. Forced busing as a means to expedite desegregation wasn't approved by the court until 1971. Seventeen years after Brown, schools were still not racially inclusive. Unlike later generations, the "Baby Boomers" are essentially the last of the segregation babies. They are the products of White Flight. In order to avoid integration, they moved miles outside the inner cities and established their own exclusive, white suburbs. As they got older, nothing changed. Southern State colleges and universities were still virtually segregated until the seventies. For these children, there is a high probability that every second of their formative life was spent in an era where narrow-mindedness, prejudice, and bigotry ran deep.
Why is this relevant today? Those children, infused with hatred and socialized in institutional intolerance, are today's decision makers. The average congressman in Washington DC today would have been in the SEVENTH GRADE at the time of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. These are your policy makers, your lawyers, your judges, and your police chiefs. They are the remnants of a country that has evolved before their eyes. And many of them aren't pleased with the changes.
Its likely their children went to integrated public schools and universities and even sat on the back of school buses with the black kids. They eat at restaurants where black patrons didn't have to walk to a back window for service. Interracial relationships are a commonplace, and mixed babies are more than just evidence of master-slave relations. Their neighbors in that once white-by-design suburb are now people of color, and their grand-babies play with their children rather than picket for their inclusion. They watch as their descendants have adopted more and more black culture over the years:the music, to the dress, to the lingo. Caucasians are slowly becoming the minority in America, and, boy, are they mad about it.
And HOLY SHIT, there's a Black family in the White House.
The old guard of Southern Racism is slowly losing its grip. Its the reason why you have seen an uptick in racial tension since the election of Obama. Never in their lifetime would they have imagined that they would have witnessed the country go from unable to be educated in the same building as whites to occupying the highest office in the land. They don't understand it. It goes against everything they were raised to believe in.The only problem is, today, standing on the street corner with a picket sign saying yelling "Nigger" isn't as acceptable as it was fifty years ago. Now, they are forced to conceal their racism. Being the overt racist actually gets you shunned and shamed on social media outlets. In 2015 intolerance gets you fired from your job instead of acceptance to the country club.
This is in no way a referendum on all Baby Boomers across the spectrum. There are multitudes of those who have genuinely shed the old ways of Southern racism. However, you cannot deny the impact that the upbringing of the generation still has a lasting impact on the state of race relations in America today. We are far from the "post-racial" society that the media constantly boasts. One big reason is that these old bigots are holding on for dear life. Change is a threat to them, and they are doing everything in there power to maintain the status quo. Right now, we are just playing the waiting game.