Civil Rights Act and Baltimore's struggles [Letter]

Letter writer Ken Hines ("Lesson of 1964, commented on The Sun's front page article ("Equality's struggles," June 28). He asks the question, "What did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 give us and what did we learn from it?" Then he points to the current situation in Baltimore ("…decay, poverty, high murder rates, drugs, failing schools, one-parent families ...") and infers that these rights were received without sufficient responsibility on the part of the recipients and that's why these conditions exist.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally ended segregation in this country. It allowed African-Americans, among other things, to now sit where they wanted to on a public bus, drink water from any water fountain in a public park or building, eat at any restaurant they chose, apply for any job they desired, live in any neighborhood that they could afford, enroll at the nearby high school and finally, as a result of the Voting Rights Act a year later, vote for the candidate of their choice without meeting capricious and often ludicrous poll requirements — requirements that white voters did not have to meet.

African-Americans were denied for over 100 years, since the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery in the U.S., to be treated with the dignity that every human being should receive without exception. They were denied for over 100 years to be treated in a way that I, as a 62-year-old white American, expects to be treated every day. And I didn't have to risk my life and that of my family as the civil rights workers did in order to receive this treatment. I weep now as I write this because it seems so unbelievable that any group of people could be treated so inhumanely by other human beings for so long.

Now it's 2014 and Baltimore City admittedly struggles with all these troubles that Mr. Hines mentioned. However, these troubles have their roots in the white community as well as the black community. These troubles are not simply an African-American problem.

And so we have an African-American mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has taken the responsibility of righting this struggling city. We have a Democratic nominee for governor, Anthony Brown, who could become Maryland's first African-American governor in November, taking responsibility for governing a state that has the highest median per capita income and whose education system is among the best in the country.

The connection between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the current situation in some African-American neighborhoods in inner city Baltimore is perhaps the result of decades and decades of despair — despair over living a life filled with indignities and stifling frustration. It took over 100 years to end these indignities. It's not likely that their effects will go away completely in 50 years.

Steve Milmoe, Pasadena

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