We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing's changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes. We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character — requires admitting as much.
"We are capable of bearing a great burden," James Baldwin wrote, "once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is."
In between Sasha and Malia Obama is Marian Shields Robinson. Born in 1937, she was about 27 years old when Bloody Sunday occurred.
This weekend, she walked that bridge holding her granddaughters hands. It's one of the thousands of stories that could be told from that horrible day, 50 years ago. So much is changed.
Alabama state troopers break up the March 7, 1965 march in Selma with billy clubs. John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, whose skull was fractured, is in the foreground.(AP Photo/File)
US President Barack Obama hugs US Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, one of the original marchers at Selma, during an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
This is also Women's history month. What a glorious thing for three generations of women to share.