With all the celebrating of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, one barely has a moment to reflect on exactly what is being celebrated. More importantly, no one has even considered the idea that a grand celebration may be contraindicated.

Fifty years ago, Jim Crow laws shaped the lives of black persons. Basic human rights were denied to them, under the guise of law and morality. Voting rights were a constant issue as well. While not outright slaughtered in the streets, black people were beaten and killed from state to state while the wheels of justice were seemingly stuck in the middle of the road. The very lives of blacks were taken as near worthless. As a result of this madness, there were constant marches and boycotts against the very visible Jim Crow. But Jim, though successful, was unpolished. He simply could not hide his evil and venom from the world at large and, as such, was an embarrassment to his Northern cousins. So, in order maintain the status quo of inequity and unfairness, he required a makeover. In essence, he had to reinvent himself.

Jim Crow gave birth to a new and more sophisticated form of himself. Instead of donning sheets and hoods, he donned business suits and carried leather briefcases. He traded in his fire hoses, rope and dogs for law, policy and money. He changed his stance and speech patterns, gained epicurean insight and began calling himself James Crow, Esq.

Unlike his uncultured cousin, James Crow, Esq., has a stellar education and is better able to twist and pervert the justice system for his dirty work. Unlike his counterpart, he uses the pen as his weapon instead of the noose. In this way, he is able to distance himself from the old, obvious racism and pretend that his own sins, though as numerous and cruel as his counterpart’s, are somehow right and fair-seeming. The outcome is the same for those targeted by Jim or James, but James’ hands APPEAR to be clean…and in today’s society, appearance is everything.

But we celebrate. We celebrate the death of Jim Crow while ignoring the continued survival of James. We tell ourselves or, better yet, are told that race is no longer an issue and that those who think otherwise are troublemakers and race baiters. But, lo and behold, just as in the days of Jim Crow, voting rights are still an issue. Decades later, the new face of an unjustified and unpunished murder is Trayvon Martin instead of Emmett Till. In 2013, African Americans are still given harsher penalties than their white counterparts for the same crimes.

So…what was the celebration for?

As strange as it may seem, we appear to be celebrating the strides African Americans have made in their quest for equality in the same vein as someone who was suffering under eight tumors and now has only six. Obviously, you don’t want to dismiss the unmistakable healing that has taken place but, make no mistake, he is not whole. He continues to need major assistance and adjustments. For all his strides, the cancer is still there.

Now, let’s imagine that it took 50 years for the two tumors to vanish. Would you feel the same about his achievements or would you have expected him to have been restored to wholeness and able to stand on his own two feet?

Can anybody hear me?

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