Black Activists Call 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act Enactment "Bittersweet" Occasion, Since Many Fail to Recognize the Progress That Has Been Made
"The Civil Rights Act changed American culture... racist sentiment became largely outdated and unacceptable ...black people... are now the masters of their own destiny."
"Today, black Americans and other minorities no longer face the daunting obstacles that existed prior to 50 years ago. The public square and corridors of commerce are overwhelmingly accessible by blacks and whites, men and women alike."
Washington, D.C. - Five decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, activists with the Project 21 black leadership network are commenting on its impact and legacy. Many believe the overwhelmingly positive efforts of the Act are being downplayed by "race-obsessed" critics.
"The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act is a bittersweet occasion. As we assess what its passage means for American society and why it came about, we also must lament those who treat 21st Century USA like the Jim Crow America of yesteryear," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a legal commentator who formerly taught law at George Mason University and was a leadership staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives. "Today, black Americans and other minorities no longer face the daunting obstacles that existed prior to 50 years ago. The public square and corridors of commerce are overwhelmingly accessible by blacks and whites, men and women alike. Sadly though, for too many of us, broken families and undue faith in government programs serve as a modern hindrance to black achievement and success."
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. The new law created sweeping protections against discrimination based on race, gender, religion and national origin. It covers issues such as access to government facilities, public accommodations, voter registration and workplace discrimination, among other things.
While the Civil Rights Act brought about fundamental change in the way American law handles the topic of race and helped usher in a new era of equality, Project 21 members note there are members of the civil rights lobby and self-appointed black leadership who still insist the United States is inherently racist.
"On the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we are sure to hear that little has changed for black Americans. The usual batch of self-proclaimed black leaders will jockey for the opportunity to do so. They are wrong," said Project 21's Joe R. Hicks, a community activist in Los Angeles who was formerly the executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — a civil rights group formed by Martin Luther King, Jr. "Simply put, the Civil Rights Act changed American culture. Within a matter of years, racist sentiment became largely outdated and unacceptable. Race-obsessed black leaders unrealistically demand a racial utopia, but they miss the fact that black people have achieved something far more important. They are now the masters of their own destiny."
"The passage of the Civil Rights Act was a signpost that America demonstrated she is more committed to the idea of equality under the law than any point since the Declaration of Independence. But, unfortunately, black leaders often fail to give our nation the credit it's due," added Project 21's Cooper. "It was quite a galvanizing act when the nation came together to ensure the commitment that all Americans would be equal under the law was secured. Unfortunately, instead of stepping out and embracing the reality of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of a colorblind society open to all Americans of good will, too many continue to focus on injustices of the past."
"It's been five decades since the Civil Rights Act was signed. It's a time for us to reflect upon the sacrifices made so that equality and freedom can be shared with all men," said Project 21's Demetrius Minor, a youth minister and former White House intern. "It's a mix of the heroism of individuals such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, who gave us the boldness and courage to fulfill our dreams, and a bipartisan coalition in Congress who codified their crusade into law. While there is obviously more work necessary to further the cause of civil rights, it remains largely at the personal level and not with society as a whole. It is with a grateful heart that I salute the heritage of the past that made my successes in life possible today."
In 2014, Project 21 members have already been interviewed or cited by the media over 800 times — including TVOne, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox News Channel, Westwood One, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SiriusXM satellite radio and 50,000-watt talk radio stations such as WBZ-Boston and KDKA-Pittsburgh — on issues that include civil rights, entitlement programs, the economy, race preferences, education and corporate social responsibility. Project 21 has participated in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race preferences and voting rights and defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org). Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.