Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and the keynote speaker for the 24th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, addressed America’s history of race and its continuing impact on Thursday, Jan. 24. To a filled Crystal Cove Auditorium in UC Irvine’s Student Center, Bond’s speech began by stating, “Those who say race is history have it backward; history is race in America.”
Bond contested recent statements from Democratic presidential candidates about race not being an issue in the 2008 presidential election, believing that racial issues should not be ignored, but he cautioned that it should not become a dividing point among Hispanic and African-American voters.
Chairman of the NAACP since 1998, Bond noted that the organization would not endorse a candidate for president, and he reflected upon the organization’s role as a civil-rights platform.
“The NAACP doesn’t have permanent enemies or friends. At the NAACP we have permanent interests, and those interests are justice and freedom,” Bond said, prompting applause from the audience.
A civil-rights activist and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, Bond emphasized the point that, while leaders did emerge, the movement itself was a people’s movement. “Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before and with thousands,” Bond reminded the crowd.
According to Bond, the modern civil-rights movement is rooted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools and places by challenging its constitutionality under the 14th Amendment. Bond spoke about how this decision, which he perceives as one of African-Americans’ greatest legal achievements, altered the status of Black Americans.
“Today, we misunderstand by adopting a sanitized view of history and Dr. King,” Bond said as he connected the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement to the integration of Little Rock High School, and the Montgomery bus boycott, to current events like Hurricane Katrina and Jena, Louisiana.
“Almost every social indicator