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Hijacking the civil rights movement

Bonnie Willis's picture

This past weekend our family had the opportunity to attend a college graduation ceremony. It was a proud moment in one of our family member’s life, and we were happy to support her and share with our children something to which they can aspire.

Unfortunately, the keynote speaker, who was a civil rights activist, made contradictory statements I would not want my children to emulate.

In one instance he stated that the graduates had a spirit inside that would enable them to overcome challenges through strength and love. But then at many points he injected racially divisive rhetoric by making such ominous comments like, “they” will come against them [the graduates] because of the way they look, just like they do our president.

It was also disturbing to me that he claimed his speech was not about politics, yet asserted that the civil rights movement is now a fight for social justice — which he implicitly defined as a fight for equal wages, universal healthcare, and education.

This claim was political, and unfortunately, many in the audience clapped. But all I could think was, since when did the civil rights movement become a call for socialism?

The civil rights movement was about holding our government accountable to the declarations of the Constitution. That is, the government could not have one set of laws for one people and a separate set of laws, or institutional structures, for another — as was the case with the Jim Crow laws and discriminating civil agencies.

Regrettably, people such as the graduation speaker have changed the definition of civil rights from people being treated equally under the law to people being treated equally in terms of resources and outcomes.

Additionally, and more insidiously, they imply that their view of civil rights should be mandated for everyone, and either through legislation or regulation, they view government as the agent for this change.

For them, once the government ensures resources are equally allocated, we will have a nation that is socially just. Rather than promoting civil rights, however, this way of thinking sounds more like an endorsement of socialism/communism.

Relative to this latter statement, I can just imagine some of the comments of my detractors. They will probably insist that there is racism today and that there is institutional inequality that places people of color at an unfair disadvantage. Consequently, government must correct this wrong by meeting the short-term needs of minorities — effectually legislating private individuals and entities follow policies that help advance those that have been at an institutional disadvantage.

To my detractors, I would like to say that I am one who has experienced both racial and financial struggles, yet here I am in strong disagreement with their policies, for our nation was never intended to make all people have and achieve things equally.

By virtue of the fact that we are a diverse people, there will be concomitant differences, and therefore, inequities. To some, obviously, this will appear to be unfair, but as long as there is one law that applies to everyone equally — white or black — we are seeing the civil rights movement being achieved.

I wish the graduation speaker spoke to this point as well as acknowledged how far our nation as a whole has come.

Although the graduation ceremony was not the inspirational experience I had imagined for my children, it was an important lesson that we were able to talk through, even at their young ages.

Sadly, I did notice one white family leave through the speaker’s race-laden speech, and I honestly didn’t blame them for doing so, since they were neither being strengthened nor loved.

However, I was encouraged that we were not the only African-Americans in the audience who did not appreciate the rhetoric and could see how the civil rights movement was being hijacked, for another family in front of us also did not clap during the resentful, racial rhetoric.

Seeing this family gave me hope that despite what we are told, not all African-Americans are being fooled by the bait-and-switch from civil rights to socialism that is being perpetuated in the media, schools, and even some churches.

Unfortunately, we are seeing the devastating effects socialistic policies and placing faith in a supposedly all-powerful government are having on our communities.

Rather than elevating individuals and families to strive and achieve more, a theoretical/utopian concept of equality robs each of us of our freedom, motivation, and dignity, and never truly holds the government-goliath accountable for the declining results.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]


...I was in the audience. That, or this 'speech' was parroted across the city. Emory U. Rollins School of Public Health graduate school had a similar speaker. I began feeling awkward as he chose to reach back to memories of profound prejudice in his childhood for his opening talks. I thought surely this will end soon and he will begin to inject inspiring encouragement to this class of hard working public health masters students.

Instead, he continued to speak of racial injustice and social issues. What could have been a time to launch fellow public health workers became an awkward, racially motivated rant. When he finished, he raised a clenched fist in the air, reminiscent of the 60s and 70s black power symbol.

Wow, okay. Not what I expected.

Thank you for this article. You speak with great wisdom and discernment.

My generation will hopefully be the last generation in these United States that experienced the 'horrors' of brutal acts of racism to the physical and well as the mental being of fellow humans. Fortunately, there are many instances in our history and our present that are inspirational. . .and encouraging for even more improvement in 'race relations'. <strong> Think on these things</strong>. I have read more articles by inspirational authors than the authors one finds on or The New Nation.

SPQR's picture

Lewis is wonderful human being but his thoughts are forever locked into the past. Similar in a way to some of our outstanding individuals who are forever locked into Vietnam. Knowing this it's hard to fathom inviting a keynote speaker when you know he's a one trick pony.

brooksdad's picture

Thank you Ms. Willis for articulating the truth. Unfortunately and as is typical, many will continue to ignore the facts, and persist in their self-serving, incessant spewing of socialism and racism.

There are some that are making money on racism. (NAACP) So they can't let it end.

brewster's picture

You ol' fish eyed fool.

Mrs. Willis and/or DM do not represent all ?__black?__ people. I respect Mrs.

Willis?__ opinion that is based on her perception and experiences.

I was not present at this event. However, I find Mrs. Willis perception and assumptions interesting.

The speaker is quoted as saying:

[quote]?__they?_? will come against them [the graduates] because of the way they look, just like they do our president.[/quote]

This is not an untrue statement based on my personal experience and the experience of my children and grandchildren. Certainly, those who are still reading some of the sharing regarding race and our president have seen words that express resentment, fear, and disrespect of Barak Obama because of his ?__color?__. Most here are avowed conservatives ?__ and express their disapproval based on their political beliefs. This is the American way. . .not always ?__racist?__

The speaker:

[quote]asserted that the civil rights movement is now a fight for social justice ?__ which he implicitly defined as a fight for equal wages, universal healthcare, and education.[/quote]

<strong>Equal wages</strong> regardless of race, gender;<string<strong> <strong>affordable healthcare; </strong><strong>education</strong> ?__ these are not opportunities that all citizens of our country should have equal access? Many here had grandparents and great-grandparents who came to this country seeking the promise of the opportunity to obtain ?__?__rights?__. Most were able to succeed because they worked hard; took advantage of the opportunities this country offered. Some did not have the same legal opportunities. The ?__civil rights?__ movement helped to assure these opportunities for all Americans. As long as we see the attempt to oppress the minority vote/progress in this country; etc. . .there will be groups that will ?__fight?__?__ those attempts. The right to vote, etc., is not a ?__social justice?__ issue ?__ but under our Constitution in 2014 a legal opportunity for all American citizens.

The speaker:

[quote] Regrettably, people such as the graduation speaker have changed the definition of civil rights from people being treated equally under the law to people being treated equally in terms of resources and outcomes..[/quote]

<strong>Unequal resources often results in unequal outcomes.</strong> Our history and present gives credence to this ?__truth?__.

Brooksdad: What is your definition of ?__socialism? Since the ?__60?__s, I have enjoyed the US implementation of ?__democracy?__. The citizens of Cuba have endured ?__socialism?__.

A Democracy is two lions and an antelope voting on who to eat for dinner.

Fortunately the Civil Rights movement changed this scenario IMO. (The antelope or minority now has a 'chance' - under the law.)


Please explain that one.

Do you disagree with the definition of 'democracy'?

Now, when the citizens of this country have turned their 'voice' over to politicians who sign documents and receive funds for campaign expenses - the essence of 'democracy' is GONE! But do we allow the Lions to rule under our Constitution as they continue to kill the weak. Humans should be better than this.

Opportunities in this Country are great for those who are willing to work, sacrifice, and live by a basic ethical code, and that is without regards to color, race, creed or religion.

Sadly, there are still those who derive their 'positions and self perceived power' from being the leaders of divisive tactics -- causing some in the society to look to them for leadership, only to find a total void in their empty rhetoric!

Would suggest that Ms. Willis send a copy of her blog to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. They appear to be in the most need of these sage words!

Is also aware of the rhetoric from and The New Nation. Fortunately the majority of Americans do not look to those who harbor their beliefs for leadership. Civil Rights and 'social issues' - interesting concepts. Some have made it quite clear that a 'social issue' should not interfere with the civil rights of Americans. Segregation will NEVER be an accepted practice in the United States.

A true statement:

[quote]Opportunities in this Country are great for those who are willing to work, sacrifice, and live by a basic ethical code, and that is without regards to color, race, creed or religion[/quote]

We're still working on the implementation of this truism.

Very well put I wanted to stand up and applaud you

well done, well done

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