Tuesday at the Community Luncheon in Kansas City honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond insisted that the civil rights work that he championed with King 50 years ago is far from over.
Bond, a former chairman of the NAACP, told the crowd at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center that the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president was hailed by some as a breakthrough in race relations, signaling a post-racial period for the country. But in reality, Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012 marked an acceleration of an intolerable time in the nation.
Bond cited polls showing a growing anti-minority sentiment. Too many people view the election and Obama as a threat to heterosexual, Christian and white values.
It sparked the creation of the tea party, wanting to take back America. The NAACP at its national convention in Kansas City in 2010 called for the tea party to oust racists from its ranks.
From the Civil War to civil rights, Bond said, “we’re still a country at war with itself.” Bond noted that the United States has gone from “a war on poverty to a war on the poor.”
Bond, who celebrated his 74th birthday on Tuesday, shared with the audience at the Southern Christian Leadership luncheon that the slaying of Emmett Till in 1955 frightened him. But the courage demonstrated by the Little Rock Nine integrating schools in Arkansas gave him strength to get involved in the civil rights movement with King.
People have to see that “racism is alive and well” in America and must be confronted. Bond pointed out that reconfigured, the letters in America read “I am race,” and that defining element has not gone away in this country.
“We have work to do,” Bond said. “We have never wished our way to freedom. We have always worked our way.”
A committed activism is needed now the same as was present among thousands who marched with King. “When we act together we can overcome,” Bond said.