Small Change

You call that a strike!!?? Two days? The United Auto Workers didn't strike. It held a little pep rally. Now the workers can go back to their jobs, until layoffs force them out of work, and management can continue with its short-sighted policies. Things sure ain't what they used to be.

I've been thinking about where we are and where we've been a lot lately. It's partly because I grew up in Little Rock, Ark. I was just a little tyke back when the nine black students ran the racist gauntlet to enter Central High School. This week we've witnessed the jubilation, if you will, as the nine returned to Central for ceremonies celebrating their success (as well as the fact that they didn't need U.S. Army paratroopers this time). It is true. Times have changed.

First of all, the Supreme Court back then supported integration by ruling that the "separate but equal" school systems in the United States weren't equal at all. Today's justices have just voted to pretty much abandon that approach. Sadly, desegregation really hasn't happened.

A huge chunk of our schools are still separate and unequal. They're either predominantly black, predominantly white, overwhelmingly something other than diverse.

To be fair, we have pretty much eliminated the most extreme bigotry. No longer do African-Americans have to sit in the back of the bus, or eat at separate lunch counters, or use separate restrooms. For the most part, the worst manifestations of prejudice are passe. For the most part. But just when we start patting our selves on the back, the nooses start appearing in Jena, La., and elsewhere to remind us that Jim Crow isn't dead yet.

Still, at least extreme discrimination against blacks is no longer officially acceptable. It festers, to some degree; and blacks have been replaced in these modern times by other targets like gays and immigrants. And God help you if you're a gay illegal immigrant.

Of course times have changed. It was also 50 years ago that Sputnik roared into orbit. And after the United States got over the rude shock of being beaten into space by the commies, we moved on. Today, satellites are a mind-boggling part of our routine. So much of our commerce, communication travels 23,000 miles up and 23,000 miles down. We don't even think about it anymore.

The technological changes of 50 years ago have brought on remarkable advances today. However, we have a huge amount of work to do on the social agenda. It was nice to see my peeps in Little Rock have their congratulatory Central High homecoming reunion yesterday, but after 50 years enlightenment is still a long way off.

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