Published in Issue 242 of The Black Commentator on August 16, 2007
Republished in New America Media (USA) on August 27, 2007

By Larry Pinkney

Recently, I found myself listening in on a group of nine young Black high school kids who had been asked to comment on Black history and the present state of Black America as they see it.

To my glee, most of the youth made knowledgeable and consistent historical reference to Black men and women, ranging from Mary McCleod Bethune and Fannie Lou Hamer, to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Two kids even referenced, with obvious pride, the Black Panther Party. I was ecstatic.

However, the second part of their conversation, which dealt with the state of Black America today, was chilling and frankly a little disconcerting.

When they were asked if today, Black people in America had finally gained full equality in US society, almost half of them replied, albeit somewhat hesitantly, that things are “probably okay now”, since as one of the young people put it: “After-all it’s not the sixties anymore.”

It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, the other five young people replied in their own Black and hip high school manner that: “No way are Black people treated equal in America!” They then proceeded to give examples in support of their position.

The fact is that it is the 21st century and it really “isn’t the sixties anymore.” Unfortunately, it’s far, far worse for the vast majority of Black Americans and most especially our youth, than it was in the sixties. Prisons in the US are bustling with poor, angry, and disenfranchised Black, Brown, and Red youth. Most Black and other people of color are without any meaningful health care coverage. The so-called judicial / justice system – or more appropriately the ‘just us‘ system – is a disgustingly sick joke, where only Scooter Libby and the like commit felonies and do not one day of jail time. While the US military is busy selling deadly lies of false hope to Black youth, our seniors – women and men – are discarded as so much used fodder by this racist, corporate, capitalist system. No indeed, “it’s not the sixties anymore;” it’s far, far worse.

What needs to be remembered about the sixties is not only what little we accomplished, albeit with enormous sacrifice, but how very much we didn’t.  The ultimate sacrifices made by so many dedicated activists in organizations including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Republic of New Africa (RNA), and the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), etc., must never be forgotten. However, if the sixties taught us anything it is that the struggle of Black America is a protracted one that must be waged on many fronts. It is this lesson that we must pass on to our young people.

There is absolutely no doubt that Black, Red, and Brown peoples and even some seriously committed Whites can substantively, substantially, and systemically change the course of America’s bloody and hypocritical direction in the 21st century. But this will not be easy.

No, it’s not the sixties anymore. It’s the 21st century, with challenges that match and surpass those of the sixties. Our calling in Black America, in this, the 21st century, is to remain actively determined to deal with political, economic, and social issues at their root; something which was not completed in the sixties. Let’s keep it real by struggling for root changes, not merely chopping at the branch. It’s not the sixties anymore and thank goodness it’s not. The future beckons and the struggle continues.

Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities, Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and more recently on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones Show. Pinkney is a former university instructor of political science and international relations, and his writings have been published in various places, including The Boston Globe, San Francisco BayView newspaper, Black Commentator, Intrepid Report, Global Research (Canada), LINKE ZEITUNG (Germany), 107 Cowgate (Ireland and Scotland), and Mayihlome News (Azania/South Africa). He is in the archives of Dr. Huey P. Newton (Stanford University, CA), cofounder of the Black Panther Party. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.