About a year and a half ago at the holiday celebration for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in downtown Kansas City, Julian Bond said a crying need remained for civil rights work in the United States.
That was before the police killings in 2014 of Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. Those are just three examples of many unarmed black males nationwide who were slain by police since Bond spoke in Kansas City.
Bond, 75, died Saturday night. But his call for more civil rights work should be taken more seriously now than it was in January 2014 when he spoke to a Kansas City audience. Bond was a former chair of the NAACP, one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
He had marched with King and later served for 20 years in the Georgia Legislature. When he spoke in Kansas City, he cited polls that showed a growing anti-minority sentiment.
In a Jan. 15, 2014 blog at that event, I wrote: “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.’”
The death of Brown a year ago spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has gotten more Americans to realize race relations is a big problem in this country. A new Pew Research Center survey this month showed that a majority of whites now say the U.S. needs to do more to make equal rights a reality and they realize that blacks are treated less fairly than others by law enforcement. The survey showed that 86 percent of African Americans say the country needs to make more changes.
Bond won’t be around to see it through. New, young leaders will have to step into the void to help the United States live up to its ideals for all of its citizens.