The year 2017 represents the 50th anniversary of the “long hot summer” of 1967. During this tumultuous period, 176 cities (including Wichita) experienced racial disturbances.
One of the ironies associated with the 1967 urban unrest is that it occurred after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On the surface, these important pieces of legislation appeared to have solved America’s race problems. Still, centuries of racial oppression and bias were not immediately erased with the stroke of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s pen. Consequently, the rising expectations that African Americans had after the passage of 1960s civil rights legislation clashed with the reality of ongoing de-facto racial discrimination.
Although the 1967 racial disturbances represented a manifestation of African American frustration and anger, many blacks, at the time, were optimistic about the future. Indeed, the dramatic growth of the African American middle class in succeeding decades validated this viewpoint.
Unfortunately, when one surveys the social, political, and economic landscape of Black America in 2017, it appears potentially more combustible than fifty years ago. Notwithstanding the educational and economic success of some, far too many current-day African Americans remain educationally and economically marginalized. Moreover, the sense of optimism that animated an earlier generation has been muted for a variety of reasons, including the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget. Only time will tell how this will all play out.