How the Big Six Fight for Jobs and Freedom Continues

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/20/2013, 12:51 p.m.
For any detractors who think major civil rights organizations are irrelevant, Bob Ross says recent developments that adversely affect African ...

Avis Jones-DeWeever, an authority on race and gender in the American economy, said African Americans face many of the same challenges their forebears did 50 years ago.

“I think that it’s ironic,” said Jones-DeWeever, 44. “I think we’re still fighting for the same things today. It’s particularly telling to me that we’re refighting battles we thought we’d won in the criminal justice and voting arenas. Unfortunately, it seems to be gaining in momentum.”

“Affirmative Action is being chipped away and so many challenges we’re facing today, are issues we hoped we’d have been further along on,” said Jones-Deweever, president and CEO of Incite Unlimited, LLC., and an expert in issues of privilege, power, and policy in the US and elsewhere. “Given racism’s particularly destructive, violent and evil reality, it is something with which this nation doesn’t want to wrestle. They want to celebrate small advances and ignore larger realities.”

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy, said his organization has input and policy and programmatic involvement in a range of issues such as job creation, small business development, and lobbying to ensure that student loan fees remain low. The NAACP is also working to reduce gun access and gun violence.

“The NAACP worked to pass the Brady Bill in 1994 and the assault weapons ban in 1995,” said Shelton. “America has a serious problem with guns in this country. The gun lobby says guns kill people but people with guns kill people. We’ll reduce the amount of deaths if we reduce people’s access to guns.”

Jones-DeWeever, however does not believe that the race has been asleep.

“I’m not sure that we fell asleep, but there were some unintended consequences to integration such as community dispersal and the elevation of cultural traits that are not beneficial to us. We have also embraced individual traits which are very different from our culture. Integration has meant the acceptance of individualism and materialism which meant the detriment of our communal advancement,” she said.

While they believe African Americans must remain vigilant, the trio said they remain hopeful.

“The struggle is going on now but we have had a lot of victories,” said Shelton. We’ve taken two steps forward, one step back. We had the march in 1963 and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The Supreme Court pushed us back on one provision but we’re achieving a lot, getting the job done.”