Civil Rights

Civil Rights (January 15, 1992)
Duration: 00:26:36

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Themes: Leadership | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Ernest C. Dillard Sr
Host : Cliff Russell
Producer : Carlota Almanza


Summary: Russell is joined by Ernest C. Dillard, Jr., a local historian and projects manager with the UAW. He is the author of Civil Rights in the 1990s: Race at the Crossroads, and Russell starts by posing the question to him of what he means by "crossroads." Dillard believes that they are at a stage where there is the opportunity for potentially great progress, but only if they choose to do the right thing. In his book, Dillard says that blacks are on equal footing with whites legally, in terms of things such as voting rights, but there are new issues that need to be addressed. These legal rights were the result of actions such as Martin Luther King.

Russell asks where they should now be focusing their attention, if they no longer need to do so in the legal and political arenas. Dillard believes that economic rights should be a strong focus, and there is a "black condition," where unemployment and crime is rife amongst the black community. He goes on to talk about what they should be doing to address these problems, and first brings up Affirmative Action, which he states he is a believer in but says he thinks has stark limitations. Dillard highlights that blacks are not along when it comes to economic strife, and there are a great deal of whites facing those problems as well. He thinks that blacks and laborers and Liberals should "hook up" on issues such as economics and education, where they tend to share common perspectives. He believes in working together to solve such problems, mainly because the majority of the population, whites, has the most influence when it comes to voting on issues and creating change, and also because they share the economic problems of the blacks.

They then go on to show interviews with citizens, as well as David Duke, a losing candidate for Louisiana governor's, public presentation, about their reflections on the civil rights movement and how they feel about present-day circumstances.

Russell asks Dillard what makes him think that blacks and whites can come together, and he also wants to know his perspective on David Duke. He believes that he is an "opportunistic white politician who gets elected by misleading white people." He also thinks that, in order to bring whites and blacks together, there needs to be an expose of how politicians such as Duke use the race question, and there needs to be political education of the people. Whites and blacks need to understand that both whites and blacks share the same economic problems, and that whites have the majority of it, but that it is a shared struggle as well. He believes that many whites have been fooled into thinking that blacks are at the root of their problem when it is really the result of something else.

Russell also asks what blacks should be doing for themselves, and whether there is a role for self-determination. Dillard says that yes, black should help blacks, but he stresses that the area he's talking about is the political. He also thinks that one of the reasons racist white politicians can get away with working the race question is that liberal whites are uncomfortable taking them on, because they think they'll be seen as "lovers of blacks." He thinks the big lie that blacks and whites have been operating under for many years is that blacks are the problem.

To finish, Russell tells the audience that there is a video library called Eyes on the Prize that they can use to teach their heritage to their children. Then, they show a clip from Martin Luther King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 5, File 7, Civil Rights-Then and Now – January 20, 1992 – Show # 2312
Box 13, Photographs
Box 16, File 5, Civil Rights - 1980


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