Friday, July 16, 2010

We Can't Wait

We can’t wait for people at the top to come around before we push for change.

When Senator Robert Byrd died recently at 92, he was remembered as a man who supported civil rights in his later years, but as a younger man made statements such as: “The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia,” and “Men are not created equal today, and they were not created equal in 1776.”

One of our most famous pro-segregation leaders, Alabama Governor George Wallace, made national headlines when he attempted to block African Americans from enrolling in the University of Alabama. Then decades later, in 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: "I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over."

What if the leaders of the civil rights movement had waited until Robert Byrd or George Wallace embraced integration? They would have been wasting precious time, energy, and resources that they needed for making sweeping changes.

The lessons of Byrd and Wallace are applicable today as we work to weaken other hierarchies. The top may come around eventually, but we can’t wait for them or expect them to change now.