Recently, I found myself listening in on a group of nine young
Black high school kids who had been asked to comment on Black
history and the present state of Black America as they see it.
To my glee, most of the youth made knowledgeable and consistent historical
reference to Black men and women, ranging from Mary McCleod Bethune and Fannie
Lou Haimer, to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Two kids even referenced,
with obvious pride, the Black Panther Party. I was ecstatic.
However, the second part of their conversation, which dealt with the state
of Black America today, was chilling and frankly a little disconcerting.
When they were asked if today, Black people in America had finally gained
full equality in US society, almost half of them replied, albeit somewhat
that things are "probably okay now", since as one of the young people
put it: "After-all it's not the sixties anymore."
It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, the
other five young people replied in their own Black and hip
high school manner that: "No
way are Black people treated equal in America!" They then proceeded
to give examples in support of their position.
The fact is that it is the 21st century and it really "isn't the sixties
anymore." Unfortunately, it's far, far worse for the vast majority of
Black Americans and most especially our youth, than it was in the sixties.
Prisons in the US are bustling with poor, angry, and disenfranchised Black,
Brown, and Red youth. Most Black and other people of color are without any
meaningful health care coverage. The so-called judicial / justice system
- or more appropriately the 'just us' system - is a disgustingly sick
joke, where only Scooter Libby and the like commit felonies and do not one
day of jail time. While the US military is busy selling deadly lies of false
hope to Black youth, our seniors - women and men - are discarded as so much
used fodder by this racist, corporate, capitalist system. No indeed, "it's
not the sixties anymore;" it's far, far worse.
What needs to be remembered about the sixties is not only what little
we accomplished, albeit with enormous sacrifice, but how very much we
The ultimate sacrifices
made by so many dedicated activists in organizations including the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Black Panther
Party (BPP), the Republic of New Africa (RNA), and the Revolutionary Action
Movement (RAM), etc., must never be forgotten. However, if the sixties taught
us anything it is that the struggle of Black America is a protracted one
that must be waged on many fronts. It is this lesson that we must pass
on to our
There is absolutely no doubt that Black, Red, and Brown peoples
and even some seriously committed Whites can substantively,
substantially, and systemically
change the course of America's bloody and hypocritical direction in the 21st
century. But this will not be easy.
No, it's not the sixties anymore. It's the 21st century, with
challenges that match and surpass those of the sixties. Our calling
in Black America, in this, the 21st century, is to remain actively
determined to deal with political, economic, and social issues at
their root; something which was not completed in the sixties.
Let's keep it real by struggling for root changes, not merely
chopping at the branch. It's not the sixties anymore and thank
goodness it's not. The future beckons and the struggle
Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party,
the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New
Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American
to have successfully self-authored his civil/political
rights case to the United Nations under the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Click
here to contact Mr. Pinkney.