Editor's note: This is part II in a series. Part I can be found here.In Part One of this editorial, I wrote about my father and my uncle’s experiences with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws of the 60s and early 70s. Those laws worked well temporarily! The question for our generation is: have we reached the limits of what changing the law can actually do to correct such inequalities?
Every time I see a movie like Alex Halley’s “Roots” or Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” I marvel at how completely the savagery of slavery was institutionalized into the social and psychological foundations of our nation. Although we could debate about the historic accuracy of both films, we clearly see the irrational racial hatred that chattel slavery’s shadow has promoted in our land for nearly two and a half centuries.
Despite our negative collective history, the Civil Rights Movement peacefully repealed unjust laws and leveled the employment playing field for blacks in just a few decades. One could argue that the existence of the first black president, sworn in on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, signals the end of the season in which any kind of national assistance is needed for young blacks born into our nation today.
If this kind of assessment is correct, blacks are moving into a season similar to the period just after the death of Moses prior to the Israelites settling in the Promised Land. Ironically, Dr. King preached from this portion of scripture in his last message. He said, “I have been to the mountain top!”
The next step for the biblical Israelites was to take personal responsibility for their own advancement and that of their extended family. The land “that flowed with milk and honey” had been promised to them, but they had to subdue it. The Lord would guide; but they would have to provide faith, hard work, and elbow grease.
The application for us is clear. Given the huge financial crisis we face, there will be fewer and fewer companies and/or the federal government will take on the expense of elaborate corporate EEO programs. Therefore, families and individuals have to re-think what we can do at the grassroots level to transform America.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.