On The Decline of Bipartisan Support For Civil Rights

This afternoon, the president will give a speech at the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from that same spot fifty years ago today.

Two days ago, on Monday morning, eleven leaders of the modern civil rights movement gathered at the Newseum in an event hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The panel discussion, which lasted for more than two hours, ranged in topic from immigration reform and “subconscious” racism to the implications of the recent decision in the Trayvon Martin case, the prevalence of stand-your-ground laws, and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to repeal key sections of the Voting Rights Act. The tone slid at times from disgust and desperation to qualified hopefulness.

Benjamin Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP, said the country is very close to having only one party as “the party of civil rights.” At a time when the discussion of “jobs and freedom”—the rallying call in MLK’s day—is dictated by the Tea Party and “state governments are aggressively, extremely conservative,” he said, it’s even more important that the modern civil rights movement is unified. “Rather than be balkanized when all our houses are being lit on fire, we should channel the three musketeers: One for all,” he said.

The C-SPAN video of the event can be found here.

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Haley Sweetland Edwards

Haley Sweetland Edwards is an editor of the Washington Monthly.