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Concerns Regarding Justice at the 1963 March on Washington Still the Same Today?



The March on Washington, held on August 28, 1963, was a pivotal event in the American civil rights movement. Organized by prominent civil rights leaders, this historic gathering aimed to address racial inequality and advocate for equal rights and justice for African Americans. These leaders expressed worries about the decline of democracy and justice in the US despite their fight for civil rights. The article explores civil rights leaders' perspective on the March on Washington, focusing on their concerns about democratic principles and marginalized communities. Many of these issues still present obstacles today as they did 60 years ago.

Threats to Democracy:

Civil rights leaders at the March on Washington voiced their apprehensions about the erosion of democratic values within American society. They thought that some policies and practices went against democracy's basic principles, like equal representation, free speech, and voting rights.. The vehement condemnation of discriminatory voting laws, segregation, and systemic racism was a grave threat to the very essence of our democratic nation. These visionary leaders passionately stated that genuine democracy must guarantee unambiguous equality, granting every citizen, regardless of race or ethnicity, equal rights and boundless opportunities. The targeted murders of African-Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by law enforcement spotlight the hypocritical messaging to allies and other democracies that inconsistencies at home have far-reaching ramifications aboard. Ultra-right-wing governments are using these cracks in democratic societies to gain footholds in countries like Italy to shape right-wing anti-immigrant and anti-minority policies as a solution to weakened democracies.

Injustice and Discrimination:

The pervasive injustice and discrimination experienced by African Americans were significant concerns expressed by civil rights leaders at the March on Washington. They highlighted the need for immediate action to address the systemic racism deeply ingrained in American society, including education, employment, housing, and law enforcement. Leaders emphasized that the denial of fundamental civil rights and the perpetuation of discriminatory practices were not only morally wrong but also hindered the progress and unity of the nation as a whole. Gerrymandering and redlining are two examples of systemic racism leveraged and employed against African Americans.

Lack of Legal Protection:

Another significant worry among civil rights leaders was the lack of legal protection for marginalized communities. They argued that existing laws and policies failed to safeguard the rights and liberties of African Americans adequately. The absence of comprehensive civil rights legislation left African Americans vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and social exclusion. Leaders called for the enactment of robust legislation that would provide legal remedies against racial discrimination and ensure equal protection under the law. In 2023, Voter Suppression laws passed in predominately Republican states show the pivot in policy and action carried out by the right not to make elections safer but instead a lot more challenging to vote for communities of color.

Implications for Democracy:

Civil rights leaders at the March on Washington recognized that the erosion of democracy and justice would have far-reaching implications for the nation. They believed that a society that perpetuated inequality and denied fundamental rights to certain groups could not honestly claim to be democratic. They warned that the erosion of democracy and justice would not only hinder the progress of marginalized communities but also undermine the nation’s moral fabric, leading to social unrest and further divisions. Since 2016, the country has seen a steep rise in racially charged hate crimes and mass shootings targeting Jewish, Latino, Muslim, and African-American communities.

The March on Washington was about more than just African-American civil rights for civil rights advocates. Civil Rights strongly committed them to preserving democracy and justice, which are the core tenets of the United States, but they were apprehensive about it.. The gradual erosion of democratic values, the prevalence of injustice, and the absence of legal safeguards troubled them. These concerns emphasized the urgent need for comprehensive reforms aimed at directly addressing racial inequality and ensuring equal rights for every member of society. The March on Washington, both in the past and today, is a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for democracy and justice. The March catalyzes change and inspires future generations to persevere in the fight for equality.

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