Newsday Op-Ed about civil rights, fair housing, and school district stats

Andrew Young

ERASE Racism announces…

A wonderful article appeared at Newsday on-line today [5/27/2010] by Howard Glickstein, Co-Chair of the ERASE Racism Board.  Please read it below.

Opinion:
Civil Rights: So much done, so much yet to do

Andrew Young’s Visit to Long Island next week is both a symbol and an opportunity
by Howard Glickstein (on-line 5/27 in print 5/28)

Howard Glickstein is professor and former dean of Touro Law Center and co-chairman of the ERASE Racism board of directors. He was an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the years leading up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I recall working for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as if it were yesterday, then celebrating its dramatic promise as if there were no tomorrow. Yet almost half a century later, with all the progress we have seen across our country and even on Long Island, we still find ourselves living in the nation’s third most segregated suburban community.

That’s why Andrew Young’s visit here next week [with special event on Wednesday, June 2nd] is so significant. Coming to Long Island to receive ERASE Racism’s Abraham Krasnoff Courage and Commitment Award, Ambassador Young reminds us that the great legislative milestones of the 1960s – the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 – have helped us achieve equality in law, but not in fact.

Today, our public schools are more segregated than in the 1960s. The majority of Long Island’s students of color are concentrated in 13 of our 125 school districts and attend schools with inadequate resources. Recently strengthened fair housing laws in Nassau and Suffolk have made little dent in opening up housing opportunities.

These housing and school patterns are not because of choice or personal preference but rather the result of government at all levels, as well as the real estate industry, shaping our communities. The promise of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 clearly has yet to be fully realized.

On the national level, last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that the most frequently filed charges of private-sector job discrimination involved allegations based on race, the continuation of a decade-long trend. Perhaps most disturbing, there are some today who contend that discrimination by private entities, such as businesses, hospitals and real estate brokers, should not be subject to anti-discrimination laws. A frightening prospect. Was Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky senatorial primary the most recent indication of a further shift away from a society truly free of racism?

Andrew Young, a confidant and lieutenant of Martin Luther King and a legendary leader of the civil rights movement himself, risked his life to help dismantle the government-imposed structure of discrimination that had existed in the Southern states since the founding of this country. No question, he has seen progress. When he went to Birmingham in 1963, to demonstrate against the inequalities suffered by black Americans, there was only one motel that offered accommodations to African-Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made sure that places of public accommodation throughout the United States are prohibited from discriminating.

Fair hiring, another goal of the Birmingham demonstrations, was also addressed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has had a significant, positive impact on fair elections – though hardly an election goes by without reports of efforts to suppress minority voting.

The groundbreaking laws of the 1960s are individually and collectively extraordinary pieces of legislation that brought our nation out of the darkness after generations of ignorance, small-mindedness and blatant racism. It is encouraging that the Voting Rights Act has resulted in greater political participation and the election of many minority public officials. The challenge is to ensure that these gains result in a more equitable society.

Young personally led the fight that brought about meaningful legislative change. His visit should help us focus not on the past but on the present – and, more important, the future. The gains of one generation must be protected by subsequent generations. We cannot retreat from what Young and other civil rights leaders so courageously and painfully accomplished. With so much still remaining to be done to end racism in America, including right here, Andrew Young’s visit to Long Island is powerful both symbolically and practically. Let’s not let it go to waste.

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