Bilerico Report

May 17 was a double anniversary of civil rights battles

happy-anniversary

Bil Browning

When you reside at the intersections of multiple identities anniversaries of your civil rights struggles can be both bitter and sweet. And this May 17th was a reminder.

At 12:01 a.m. on May 17, 2004, the city of Cambridge was the first to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At 9:15 a.m. the first couple was married. Then-Cambridge City Clerk Margaret Drury said to Tanya McCluskey, 52, and Marcia Kadish, 56, of Malden, Massachusetts, “I now pronounce you married under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Also, on that day was the 50th anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education, a ruling that upended this country’s “separate but equal” doctrine, adopted in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.  

While joy washed over me that day knowing my partner and I could now follow McCluskey’s and Kadish”s footsteps and be legally married, we could not rejoice over the limited success, huge failures, and ongoing resistance of Brown that allowed a few of us entry into some of the top universities of this country, as it naggingly continues to be challenged as a form of reverse discrimination.  

In a 1960 address to the National Urban League, Martin Luther King Jr. shared his hopeful remarks about the landmark decision:

For all men of good will May 17, 1954, came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of enforced segregation. . . . It served to transform the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope.”

On this year’s anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, African Americans and Latinos continue to attend not only segregated schools, but they also attend high-poverty urban ones with metal detectors. Sadly, policing while schooling have doubled since 2001 to present day. 

Where it was once thought that access to a quality education would dismantle, for future generations, the pox of bigotry and ignorance their parents inherited, race and class, unfortunately, continue to be discriminating indices upholding not only “separate” school systems and  but also “unequal” treatment of students.

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