Editorial: Fifty-five years and counting

Posted 8/19/19

We were remiss, and considering the current state of our politics and our societal ills it was a glaring omission, in not recognizing the 55th anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon B. …

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Editorial: Fifty-five years and counting

Posted

We were remiss, and considering the current state of our politics and our societal ills it was a glaring omission, in not recognizing the 55th anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon B. Johnson of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a momentous occurrence in our history that took place a little over a month ago to the day on July 2, 1964.

As a people, we certainly have not yet lived up to its ideals. In fact, at the moment and after what has happened intermittently since July 2, it seems like, sadly, we have retreated to the outright bigotry and bitter bile of the years and decades before it became law.

Since it seems that plenty of us need a refresher, the act outlawed “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.”

Upon the signing of the landmark legislation, President Johnson was quoted as saying the following:

“This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts, to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country. So tonight I urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and professional man, every working man, every housewife — I urge every American — to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people, and to bring peace to our land.

“My fellow citizens, we have come now to a time of testing. We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole. Let us hasten that day when our unmeasured strength and our unbounded spirit will be free to do the great works ordained for this nation by the just and wise God who is the father of us all.”

Those words, which no doubt were meant to inspire us, set an aspirational tone for what lay ahead, could be said again today. Because we still haven’t found that understanding or set aside our differences in most meaningful ways.

We’re a country that remains far apart on several issues, including those of race and equality. Fifty-five years on from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s a shame those words have to be written or said.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.