Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s history-making “I Have a Dream Speech.” We’ll talk to Bay Area residents who attended the march about what that experience was like, how it changed them and the course of the civil rights movement in America. And, 50 years later, how different is the state of race relations in this country?

Michael Nolan, San Francisco promoter and producer who helped plan the 1963 March
Cecil Williams, founder and minister of liberation of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco
Kim Parker, associate director of Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project
Daphne Muse, director emeritus of the Mills College Women's Leadership Institute

  • Bob Fry

    Putting aside the approximately 25% overtly racist whites, the remainder try to overlook skin color or appearance in everyday matters, whether it’s a moment with a store clerk or deciding who to vote for. But I think everybody is more comfortable with someone of similar *culture*. That’s why Obama was elected twice: while he looks (and literally is) African-American, he acts white in most public appearances. What does that mean? He doesn’t have the black American accent and rhythm of talking, he doesn’t carry a chip on his shoulder about slavery and segregation, he’s educated and acts like an educated person (more than just academics).

    For instance, I won’t vote for someone who is clearly far from my culture, which is generally geeky white and a bit liberal socially, fiscally a bit conservative, non-religious. That means I can’t see myself ever voting Republican as those candidates are now, but also wouldn’t vote for a Jesse Jackson type, or anybody who seems to obviously side with just one ethnic or other group.

    As an older white guy, I think it’s past time for black Americans to start respecting academics, lose some of the obvious signals of separateness like baggy pants and hoodies and loudness, and basically move somewhat towards the still-dominant white culture. We’ve all heard it said that Asians also look different, but because they act closer to whites (respect education, dress to the norm, don’t act loud) they’re accepted. That’s life in America and will be for decades to come…and it’s not that bad, really.

    • Chris OConnell

      “White”: Educated, quiet, respectful, content, properly dressed, universal.
      “Black”: Loud, uneducated, talk funny, chip on shoulder, baggy pants and hoodies.

    • JSZ

      Well said Bob. It is not about the skin color but how you behave. Pull your share in society, be polite and helpful. I am a legal immigrant (still speak with a heavy accent) and try my best to do all this. Never had problems with finding a job or getting along with people around me. People are open minded to different cultures as long as theirs is respected.

  • erictremont

    Not only has Paul Robeson not been mentioned, but the late Stanley Levision, the co-author of the “I have a dream” speech also has been omitted from almost every discussion on TV and radio this week of the 1963 March on Washington.

  • M McLain

    I find it ironic on this celebration of peace and justice that our first African American President is getting ready to attack Syria after having attacked Libya just a short time ago.

    Where is the outrage? Where are all the street protesters?…………………….

  • coeurdepaix

    I was a youth working at HARYOU (Harlem Youth Opportunities Agency) when I attended the March on Washington. Prior to the March, I was one of the 283 demonstrators who were in the arrest group at the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park sit-in on July 4, 1963. In terms of race relations today, there is a distinct divide between those White Americans who read and know the forgotten history of Black Americans that include our inventions and outstanding contributions to the making of our country. Sure, we’ve made economic strides– but they were ” temporal.” After Dr. King’s murder, my father, a skilled carpenter was finally hired as a Prop man at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, becoming the first Black man hired by Local 46. He had applied several times before this tragedy, yet he wasn’t hired until he was in his early 50’s. Then, came the reverse “master plan” i.e., to destroy affirmative action. I am more motivated today than ever because I have a clear view of the “master plan” to keep Black Americans back from achieving their educational and economic goals. We have to look at the architecture of racism i.e., how is the group organized, in whose interest, and for what purpose. In the words of Simone de Beauvoir, “on ne nait pas femme, on le devient.” We become “who” we are, the “it.” based on the interventions of others’ perception of us–not on our brilliant history, struggles, and how we came up from slavery. We have to denounce being the “scapegoat” for racists who circle their wagons and perpetuate the demonic disease of racism.

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