NPR logo How Far Have We Come Since 'Bloody Sunday'?


How Far Have We Come Since 'Bloody Sunday'?

State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. The day would later become infamously known as "Bloody Sunday." AP Photo hide caption

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AP Photo

State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. The day would later become infamously known as "Bloody Sunday."

AP Photo

This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the March on Selma, also known as "Bloody Sunday."

It all started when police in Marion, Alabama shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young black man, during a voting rights rally. He would later die from that gunshot injury suffered in February 1965. His murder outraged members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led by a young John Lewis (now a 12-term U.S. Congressman from Georgia). So on March 7, 1965, the group of black activists did what they knew best — they marched.

More than 500 protesters mobilized to march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery, the throne of the late Gov. George Wallace, a staunch segregationist at the time.

But the demonstrators made little traction before Alabama state troopers unleashed a torrent of tear gas, whips, batons and all manner of brutality aimed at immobilizing the SNCC and silencing their chants. John Lewis and many others were hospitalized because of their wounds. The beatings were televised for the world to see.

It was bloody, and it was Sunday.

Tensions Boil In San Diego's 'Post-Racial' America

Since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, some argue that we are now living in a post-racial America — no more racism, no more color-coded strife. Prejudiced whites and self-hating blacks finally see a tangible reason to abandon their ill-informed ideologies and embrace unity, respect and equality.

Kumbaya? Not so fast.

Let's glance over the country to our neighbors out West, where racial tensions have reached a tipping point on the campus of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Just weeks ago, members of several UCSD fraternities thought it amusing to "commemorate" Black History Month with — you guessed it — a "Compton Cookout" party.

In case you were not invited, here's an excerpt of the invitation that describes the venue's dress code, as posted to

For girls: For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes - they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red. They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face. ...

And, of course, a (self-described) 'Jiggaboo' magically surfaced to defend the whole ordeal:

Apparently, the after-party spilled onto the airwaves of the campus television station, where, during a broadcast, angry black students were dismissed as "ungrateful ni**ers."

Since discussing this on Tell Me More, there have been more festivities.

A noose was recently found hanging on the campus and, just Monday, university officials reported a prominent campus statue being topped with a Ku Klux Klan-style hood.

Here's a news report of the reaction (as reported by KTLA-TV in Los Angeles) from black students on the campus, which make up less than 2 percent of the student population at UCSD:

It's no secret; I grew up in the tradition of the black church. There's a song we used to sing that some of the elders said reminded them of the Civil Rights Movement. Here's a lyrical excerpt:

We've come this far by faith,
Leaning on the Lord.
Trusting in His Holy Word,
He never failed me yet.

And, oh,
Can't turn around.
We've come this far by faith.

But how far have we really come since "Bloody Sunday"?