Monday, October 27, 2008

The Monday Moment

The End of Integration and The Start of Assimilation

In a previous post, I suggested that Barack Obama represents the evolution of a black man and everything that we as a people should strive to become. Today I want to take that idea one step further and ask aloud whether Obama’s ascension to leadership signals the beginning for us to assimilate into the mainstream, and as a result, also marks the end of the Civil Rights movement and the struggle to integrate with mainstream.

Let me start of this discussion by saying that I believe that holding of the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson was correct in its ruling, but its execution was entirely destructive. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), is a United States Supreme Court which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations under the doctrine of "separate but equal". The "separate but equal" remained standard doctrine in U.S. law until its final repudiation by Brown v. Board of Education, (1954).

Just imagine for a second, how things could have turned out if things were truly made separate but equal. Instead of the degrading Jim Crow laws of the Reconstruction period, think of a situation where every white accommodation called for and mandated an equal but separate black accommodation. Wherever there were clean and functioning white facilities, there had to be by law equal black facilities. For every properly funded white school, there was an equally funded black. All this mandated by the Constitution and in place starting in 1836.

Even in light of Jim Crow and other similar segregation practices, we as a people were still able to establish and matriculate through our own institutes of higher education starting with Cheyney University in 1837, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania in 1854 and Wilberforce University in 1856. Just think where historically black colleges and universities would be today if our ancestors during that time were given access to public grants and private funding to build colleges and universities equal to their white counterparts. Even in light of the failures of the Reconstruction period, by the turn of the twentieth century, back when we were colored, the African American community had established their own middle class. We were entrepreneurs and professionals. We established our own neighborhood, held ourselves to our own moral standard and built our own social constructs. We experienced the Harlem Renaissance and a continuing expansion of African American culture in this country. Just imagine what we could have accomplished if everything was truly separate but equal.

But then came Brown. The Brown case mandated integration and repudiated the “separate but equal” doctrine as inherently unequal as applied to education. This case mandated that two cultures that historically did not care for one another had to go to school together to the extent that a state provided a public education to any person. As a footnote, under Brown, a state only had to provide equal access to schooling to the extent it provided any public schools. I find it interesting that no state decided to eliminate public schools entirely rather than integrate them. From the Brown case, the Civil Rights Movement was born which pushed forward the notion integration into all aspects of society. So instead of building and supporting our own. We as a people sought to get whatever we thought mainstream received. Instead of attending Howard, Morehouse or Spellman, we have the option to attend Harvard, Stanford and Yale. Yet today, we are still struggling to integrate public schools, still struggling to ensure equal opportunity in a integrated society. Yes, some of us individually have prospered but what of the least of us. Comparing the Civil Rights Era to our Renaissance Era – in which period where we better off as a people?

Now with Barack so close to becoming our next president, and we as a people down the road of integration and to far gone to turn back to separation, I simply through out the idea that it may be time to end the experiment of integration and embrace the notion of complete assimilation. Indeed, Barack’s rise to prominence is in large part due to him putting himself as far away from anything even remotely connect with the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. No Jesse Jackson, No Al Sharpton, No Tavis Smiley, No Michael Eric Dyson, No Cornell West. Instead, Barack's whole message is that we live in one America, no blue states, no red states but one United States of America. So in supporting this candidate shouldn't we give this change a try? Isn’t this the change that we as descendants of slaves need? Assimilation has been successful for Asian Americans and even for Latin Americans to a lesser degree – is it time for us to give it a try? Why hang on to the various levels of consciousnesses that I have described in previous posts. Let us set aside our masks, cast away our burdens and embrace the idea of a melting pot rather than a mosaic.

I mean do we still need black history month? Seriously.

No comments: