The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880s to 1990s

By Mark K. Bauman; Berkley Kalin | Go to book overview

"Then and Now": Southern Rabbis and Civil Rights

MICAH D. GREENSTEIN AND HOWARD GREENSTEIN

The achievements of the civil rights movement in the South a generation ago present a curious paradox. On the one hand, the struggle in the sixties for racial equality in law, for which southern rabbis among others so bravely fought and sacrificed, has largely been won. On the other hand, although legislation has removed legal barriers to racial equality, it has only intensified an awareness of the gulf between goals and reality. In short, the work of the earlier civil rights movement is far from complete. Some goals have been achieved but many have not, and the eloquent dream that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed a generation ago has yet to be realized.

The glaring visual reminders of oppression and discrimination against people of color in public places have thankfully vanished. Discrimination in public facilities, public education, employment, and housing has been repudiated by law. Political representation of and by blacks in southern communities has mushroomed since the mid-1960s. Nonetheless, passage of civil rights laws banning discrimination in housing has not significantly altered the racial patterns of residential neighborhoods in the South. The economic disparity between blacks and whites has only worsened since that time. Illiteracy is widespread, poverty is still rampant, and welfare relief remains a prerequisite for the survival of a large segment of the black community.

Ironically, although the cause may be just as urgent as it ever was, the collective support for civil rights is not nearly as compelling. That contrast is especially pronounced among Jews. Probably no other single segment of American society demonstrated more vigorously its solidarity

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