It’s hard for me to fathom that in the same year the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was dedicated, a federal judge in Alabama would uphold some of the worst aspects of the state’s vehemently anti-immigrant law.
It makes me wonder why some Americans are intent on undoing the great work that Dr. King gave his life fighting for: equality and justice for all.
So as I get ready to join thousands of others in a few days to remember the anniversary of the 1965 Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery, I am saddened that our fight for civil rights is still not over. I don’t think Dr. King thought that in 2012, people would still be getting judged by the color of their skin.
But when I march, I will be among the many sending a very strong message to Alabama lawmakers that HB56 must be repealed.
This law has given police carte blanche to racially profile people. It has kept children from school and forced hardworking families to leave Alabama costing the state $10.8 billion annually.
There has been one positive aspect of this law: it has brought together black, brown and white people, labor, clergy, civil rights, immigration rights and human rights groups.
We are prepared to fight to repeal HB56.
We will hold the state Legislature accountable for dragging Alabama back into its darkest days of discrimination. We will hold businesses accountable if they don’t speak up against this law.
We will take this fight to other states thinking about enacting similar laws.
There have been thousands of injustices committed already in the name of HB56.
A young girl had to undergo emergency surgery days after she was denied medical care at a facility. A day laborer asking for her wages said her employer held a gun to her head and said he did not have to pay her. A shopper was asked to prove she was "American" before being able to buy something at a store.
This march will be more than a remembrance of past struggles and victories. It will mark the coming together of two strong movements in our country: the venerable civil rights movement and the burgeoning immigrant rights coalition.
- Deepak Bhargava, executive director for Center for Community Change
These incidents remind me of why this march was held in the first place in 1965.
As people stood bravely on the Pettus Bridge for their long march, I know many of them had faced harsh discrimination. Yet they took those first brave steps to do something about it.
This march will be more than a remembrance of past struggles and victories.
It will mark the coming together of two strong movements in our country: the venerable civil rights movement and the burgeoning immigrant rights coalition. The goal is the same: to achieve equality in this country, no matter what color you are. Dr. King’s dream.
The march will be more than just a walk down an historic path. It will be a chance to advance immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, women’s rights, affordable and quality education for all.
Our march will physically end in Montgomery.
But our march for civil rights will continue until HB56 is repealed, and my hope is that this coming together of leaders across movement will strengthen the might of a much broader progressive coalition for civil rights and economic justice in America. I hope millions of Americans join us in this journey to keep our country from repeating one of the saddest periods in our history.
So as I march, I will remember these words from Dr. King: “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Deepak Bhargava is executive director for Center for Community Change in Washington D.C. He is a leading advocate for poor and minority communities. The Center for Community Change, founded in 1968, works to empower poor and minorities communities.