Well-known civil rights activist Julian Bond said that after 40 years of hard-fought victories and disappointing defeats, the NAACP is fighting many of the same battles it fought in the 1960s.
Mr. Bond, the national NAACP board of directors chairman, spoke to a nearly full house at the Valentine Theatre yesterday evening. The event was sponsored by the Toledo Fair Housing Center.
Mr. Bond, the founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and a commentator on the syndicated television program America's Black Forum, told his audience that discrimination and racism still requires vigilant counteraction by people of good will.
“The successful strategies of the modern movement for civil rights were litigation, organization, mobilization, and coalition, all aimed at creating a national political constituency for civil rights,” Mr. Bond said. “Today's times require no less, and in fact insist on more.”
In the same baritone voice that captivated viewers in the acclaimed Eyes on the Prize public television series and the Oscar-winning documentary A Time for Justice, Mr. Bond told his audience that it's been 36 years since the end of segregation in America and it's not enough time to erase 246 years of slavery and another 100 years of Jim Crow laws.
“In other words, there is only one racial preference in America, and it isn't for black people,” Mr. Bond said. “The only place black comes before white is in the dictionary - and the National Basketball Association.”
Using statistics from a New York Times article from 1999, Mr. Bond said many whites don't believe racial discrimination is a road block for minorities. He said the study showed that 75 percent of whites believes blacks face no discrimination in obtaining jobs or housing, despite evidence of increased housing discrimination.
He said schools are becoming more segregated but many whites believe that equal educational opportunities exist.
“Last year, in the year 2000, 40 percent of Alabama voters, more than half-a-million people, voted to keep the state's statute prohibiting interracial marriage,” Mr. Bond said. “This year, Mississippians voted by a 2-1 margin to keep the Confederate swastika as their state's flag.”
Mr. Bond said that 2000 Census figures show the country is more diverse but most whites still live in racial isolation compared to blacks, Latinos, and other minorities.
“Today, most American whites have little contact with minorities,” Mr. Bond said. “More than one-half of all minorities live in just five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. Fifty-five percent of blacks live in the South. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics live in five Southwestern states.
“Among Asians and Pacific Islanders, half live in the West, as do Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts.”
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who gave Mr. Bond a key to the city, said Mr. Bond holds a special place in American history.
“It's delightful to have someone here of his stature,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.
Mr. Bond was able to spend some time with local branch NAACP president WilliAnn Moore and student chapter president Jared Cook of Scott High School.
“I wanted to leave him with the message that the Toledo branch of the NAACP has taken on the struggle for civil rights here in Toledo and how we've worked hand-in-hand with the Fair Housing Center,” Ms. Moore said.