ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the Civil Rights Summit in Austin Thursday afternoon. Mr. Obama was only two-year-old when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
While it has been 50 years since the bill was signed, the message has carried strong throughout the decades — but for some the oppression of the era is hard to fathom.
Speaking about segregation and lawful discrimination Arielle Bentley, a nursing student at the University of Texas at Arlington, admitted, “It’s really hard to imagine living like that.”
For Bentley and her peers Jim Crow and mandated segregation only exists in textbooks.
Now, the LBJ Civil Rights Summit has provided a fresh and necessary opportunity, experts say, to remind young people that the struggle continues.
“We’re still not there yet, even though we have an African American president, there are still issues,” Dr. Marvin Dulaney said plainly.
Dulaney, who heads he history department at UTA, plans to show portions of the summit in his class. But, as a young man growing up in Ohio in the 1950s, Dulaney learned that visiting family in the Deep South required lessons in survival.
“We were warned every summer, every summer we got the same instructions about how to act around white people. It was ‘yes sir ‘and ‘no sir’ to them, ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am,” the now educator recalled. “And of course, never look too hard at a white woman, or white girl.”
All of the stories would seem like tales from America’s past, then the fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teen became a millennial civil rights wake up call. Like on college campuses across the country, students at UT Arlington reacted to the Trayvon Martin shooting with outrage and activism.
Bentley, who is also vice president of UTA’s Black Student Associatiom, said, “Now it’s the equality in the justice system…we’re seeing it time after time with different cases, the Michael Dunn case– we saw that as well, where we’re like ‘wait a second– this is us– this is affecting us– why aren’t things on an equal playing field?
They are questions that perhaps this generation will be able to answer.
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