One of the country’s top civil rights leaders told a Purdue audience Tuesday night that even though the country has a black president, the fight to end racial inequality hasn’t ended.
Julian Bond, who had canceled trips to Purdue three times over the past year due to inclement weather, received a standing ovation when he appeared.
Bond played a part in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which worked to end racial and social injustice in the 1960s. He is also known for having served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as six terms in the State Senate of Georgia.
Bond’s talk focused on the ongoing fight to end segregation between blacks and whites and achieve true equality. He began by talking about all that has been done in the past to ensure that blacks were given the same rights as whites in society. He commended figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. who persevered in their efforts against segregation. However, he also recognized the many ordinary people who faced mobs, bombs, jail and even death for the cause. “It falls to us to continue the fight,” he said. “Jim Crow may be dead but racism is alive and well.”
Bond noted that the biggest obstacle to establishing true equality is “the mistaken belief that we’ve already gotten there.”
Bond described the Civil Rights Movement within America as “triumph followed by tragedy” and “one step forward followed by two steps back.” Though it may be difficult, it is important to take heart in what has already been improved and to keep fighting racial segregation in whatever form it may exist, he said. “When we act together, we can overcome.”
“I think my favorite part was when he talked about how we have this misconception of how we believe racism is dead and over with,” Chanel Thornton, a junior in the School of Health and Human Sciences, said.
“He used the analogy that instead of fighting what is in the air we often try to fix it by putting gas masks on people instead of trying to find out what is causing the air pollution. Racism is alive, but because people think that it has already been fixed because we have a black president, and that there’s no big deal, it is never going to get resolved.”