Recently Jamie Foxx virtually nominated Jay Z and others to be candidates for the next civil rights leaders. The fact of the matter is that Jay Z nor any other individual will ever fill the role of Dr. Martin Luther King as it pertains to civil rights. Granted, civil rights played a vital role during a time in history when Black Americans were both physically and socially disadvantaged. King, Abernathy, Rosa Parks, and others lived only a century away from the brutalities of slavery. They inhabited a south where the blood of lynching still clung in the air. The power behind the moment had as much to do with the perhaps the divine timing of freedom as did it have to do with the characters who were ordained to lift the chains of oppression.
At this point, we as African Americans can only look back in awe and appreciation of the movement that unfolded across the country. We watched on our black and white television screens as the legislation that would forever change the way that blacks would be treated in the south was hard fought. We were amazed at man who had obtained his PhD in theology used his intellect and Baptist preacher charm to bring down perhaps the remaining columns of legislation that excluded blacks from enjoying fundamental freedoms because of their skin color.
Black Americans have emerged to the extent where we will unlikely witness the life- altering brutalities of the past. We may suspect that we are disliked in some businesses or face biases in companies, but the hurdle that we overcame in the sixties has propelled us into a time when more African Americans are experiencing happy, productive lives with little or no racial hindrance for success.
Although we still see vestiges of racism and question the motives of some, the racism was virtually obliterated during the Civil Rights Movement. We will not have another leader such as Dr. King or the leaders of that era. Dr. King, a prodigious blend of Baptist royalty, exceptional intellect and academic genius merged with the timing of the Civil Rights Era and to become the larger life figure needed to slay the last forces of brutal, unchecked racism.
Even if we wanted a civil rights leader, it would be for naught because the forces of racism that existed during that era no longer exist. This is not to say that there are not pockets of America where blacks are still feeling the brunt of racial insensitivity as witnessed in the police brutality cases that recently captured the nation’s attention. We will continue to have racial tensions as long as there is more than one race. With time, the tensions will lessen, as they have over the years since the Civil Rights Movement. However, there are no giants to slay so there will be no more Dr. Kings in the civil rights arena.
While the black community has become so fixated on the need of a new civil rights leader, they fail to recognize the challenges that are facing us today. There are dragons to be slain, but they emerge more in the form of human rights, than civil rights. People from many races and cultures are more unified by their economic status than race. Racial struggles from the past do little to propel blacks or others cultures to help those even of their own race to emerge from homelessness and poverty.
Real leadership now will need to focus on human rights. The spirit of social elitism that has risen over the past couple of decades in the midst of economic recession has created a chasm between people that has little to do with race. Homelessness is now one of the few areas where people are still openly stereotyped by circumstances. Once again, we have a segment of society whose needs are invisible and elicit often hostile reactions when change is suggested--- the gaze is inescapable. The discrimination and bias is palpable. Words like bum, lazy, and alcoholic still persist
As the homeless, we seem to be off the radar of politicians. Elections come and go with no mention of our needs. Even churches, the bedrock of social change during the Civil Rights Movement seem exhausted at this social behemoth. Homelessness has become so demonized that rather than meaningful discussion with politicians, we are in modern day America still viewed as lepers to be swept away when company comes into town as with the recent removal of tent city just in time for Detroit the Auto Show.
Nevertheless, like all struggles of the unseen, those who struggle for human rights will one day begin to emerge. Invariably, we will face the same biases, criticisms, and roadblocks that any subjugated people of the past have.
Social privilege and elitism hold par if not outweighs racism. People of all races and backgrounds who have fallen into abyss of homelessness feel helpless and forgotten. As we celebrate Dr. King’s magnificent legacy we must realize that the challenges are no longer simple racial equality, but human rights for all.