Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 | 2:02 a.m.
Congressman John Lewis’ comments at the recent March on Washington to celebrate that occasion 50 years ago brought home an often-forgotten reality. Lewis spoke of his efforts in the 1960s to achieve both human and voting rights for all Americans. His speech reminded us that many people who fought to frustrate the achievements for which he diligently worked are still alive, and so are most of their children.
The civil rights legislation passed in that era hardly changed many of those persons’ hearts or minds — persons, incidentally, who had been conditioned to believe in white privilege, racial inferiority and segregation. The sad fact is, as many historians and sociologists have pointed out, history is not as powerful an influence as heritage in overcoming racism. Many of the citizens who now struggle desperately to restrict the vote for other hard-working Americans are the same ones that fought fiercely in Lewis’ day to dismantle the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and they also continue to pay, albeit hypocritically, lip service to “democracy.” Decent Americans should stand up and speak out against a kind of behavior that will eventually cripple our society.