That the Trump administration will take us back 50 years to the pre-civil rights era seems clear to me. That realization prompted me to think back to what made the 1960’s work, and what we need today to start the long march back from the ugliness that Trump has unleashed.
Some of the strongest voices for justice and liberation came from the black church, in the person of Dr. King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and others. Right now I’m not aware of a comparable voice from any religious body of any faith. We need to summon one forth.
The involvement of white college students — the Freedom riders — was critical. Shameful though it is to say, white America tolerated southern police forces beating, hosing, turning dogs loose on, arresting, shooting, and lynching black people — no matter how violent the optics. Not until white college students got the same treatment as they got off busses and joined marches and protests did the rest of America react. College students, now more diverse than they were in the 1960’s, were out on the streets with “Not my President” protests after the election. We’ll have to see if they can organize and continue.
Major musicians like Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, made the fight for justice part of the culture. They not only sang about freedom but were themselves in the marches, the huge outdoor concerts, the demonstrations. I think this is harder to do today, when so much of music has become personalized, something you get on your own playlist. But the role of these iconic figures was huge.
There were political figures, like Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, who spoke out against the injustices of the time, even though they were struck down by assassins. Someone else always stood up. We need figures like that now, people who can draw crowds whose purpose is different from a Heil Trump! white supremacist rally.
The important thing for me to remember is that all of what happened in the 1960’s took a long time. The anti-war movement and the other movements — for civil rights, women’s liberation, LGBT rights — criss-crossed and bled into each other. Sometimes one was in the lead, sometimes another.
I do believe that a new movement can be born, led by those of us who don’t hate and fear Muslims, or brown and black people, or who don’t want our daughters and granddaughters to go back to a workplace led by boob and pussy grabbers like Roger Ailes and Donald Trump, or who accept the simple humanity and human rights of the LGBT community and don’t believe their very presence threatens anyone’s religious beliefs.
I’m going to be watching for the signs.