Things have changed dramatically for African-Americans since the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s.
Racism is “definitely out there, but it’s not as bad as the ’60s,” said Jermaine Sanders, an African-American man who heads My Hood Needz Me, a group focused on empowering and helping at-risk Elkhart youth. “I can eat at any lunch counter I want to.”
Still, racism lingers, taking more subtle forms generally, sometimes via the anonymity of the web. “The majority of it is … silent discrimination or high-tech discrimination using social media,” said Ron Davis, president of the Elkhart County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
And while marches and sit-ins to protest Jim Crow laws, school segregation and other racial inequities are more a hallmark of the 1960s, African-Americans keep on fighting. As Black History Month commences, though, local advocates in the African-American community say their efforts extend beyond civil rights to personal empowerment and economic justice.
Davis said the NAACP here, which he’s headed since 1992, keeps a focus on civil rights. He’ll hear from people who say they’ve been discriminated against on the job or students involved in school altercations who charge they face harsher punishment from school officials because of their race.
“We get the calls when people are in trouble, and they need help,” Davis said. “They call on the Lord first, then the NAACP second.”
But talk to Sanders, an Elkhart firefighter and pastor at The Ol’ Rugged Fellowship Church, and he injects a dose of economics. The main participants in My Hood Needz Me activities have been African-American, he said. But the organization works with all, and he says civil rights are more of a peripheral issue.
“The struggle is more with poverty than it is between races,” Sanders said. The group works with at-risk youth and adults, whatever their color, and aims to get them to recognize the rights they have, but also to recognize they’re accountable for their actions and have to take responsibility.
Source: Elkhart Truth | Tim Vandenack