In all of our history classes, we have reviewed the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. We know that it is where King delivered his famous and moving “I Have a Dream” speech, and that on August 28, 1963, 250,000 people walked to the Lincoln Monument to stand up for rights that had been denied Black Americans for generations after the Emancipation Proclamation endeavored to free people from slavery. However, I don’t think a social studies class can really do justice to what occurred on that day. In the largest demonstration of its kind in American history, this march changed the course of people’s lives. It made a statement, not only to law makers on Capital Hill, but to an entire nation still stained with the effects of hatred and abuse based on race. This statement was that regardless of human prejudice and action, people are meant to be treated civilly. That is, people are supposed to have civil rights, and they will fight until we all have them.
The march on Washington that day fifty years ago ended a self-imposed deafness of our nation to the plight of a people that had been denied education, freedom, and safety because of their race. One year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. This piece of legislation marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and is credited with ending many of the terrible effects of racism and Jim Crow laws. However, that march started something that can not and does not end with the passage of a law. The truth spoken by Dr. King on that day that people should be judged solely on the content of their character still rings true today. Unfortunately, prejudice has not dissolved completely. The ghost of Jim Crow laws did not disappear with the passage of a law. I see Jim Crow when people make rude and derogatory comments about “Mexicans”, as though being from a certain nation predisposes somebody to lesser intelligence or different work ethic. I see Jim Crow when a black teenager wearing a hoodie draws suspicion in his own neighborhood.
However, that march did change things. Now, people are upset when the ghost of Jim Crow laws rears its ugly head. Things are changing, and it is important to discuss why and how in order to facilitate this change for the better. I truly believe that that march started a climb up to a day when one day we will all be judged solely by our character, and I hope to be a part of that change by becoming a part of the discourse. In the words of Dr. King, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Therefore, attending the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, would help us all to understand more deeply the spirit of equality that Dr. King died for, and learn peaceful ways to incorporate that into our lives, because silence was not the answer fifty years ago, and it is not the answer now.