NAACP Main Line’s President Offers Her Perspective on Race in America

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The organization, which was established in 1930, continues to fight for equality.

By Diana Robertson

Throughout history, there have been pivotal events so egregious that, in the heat of the moment, people were shocked into a moral awakening. But it often didn’t take long for all of that positive energy to subside and fade into oblivion … until another horrific act pierced our hearts, motivating us to again seek some type of justice.

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Race is one of the most consistent underlying determinants of the social ills systemically designed to prevent Black Americans from benefiting from all this country has to offer. The very fabric of American history is steeped in the sin of racial hatred. And we can “never recover from this history until we deal with it,” according to Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The first step is to acknowledge that systemic racism does exist. The killing of George Floyd sparked an unimaginable outpouring of anger among people of all races, ages and genders. We’ve demanded immediate action, holding an extended series of protests and rallies all over the country.

Since 1930, part of the mission of the NAACP Main Line Branch has been to address aggression against Blacks—of which racism has been deemed the underlying culprit. Malcolm X noted that “education is the passport to the future.” For decades, the NAACP Main Line Branch has fought to secure equal access to that future for Black people. Early on, the schools of Tredyffrin and Easttown townships were open to students of all colors and nationalities. Then, in 1932, the boards opted to segregate primary education. Under the leadership of Oscar B. Cobb and attorney Pace Alexander, our local NAACP branch fought the decision. In 1934, that persistence was rewarded. Twenty years after that, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school segregation.

Related article: Voices of Change NAACP Main Line Branch 

More than 60 years later, we’re still coping with inadequate educational resources, a lack of diversity among staff and administrators, disciplinary measures that target Black students, and blatant prejudices that intimidate and demean. COVID-19 has clearly exacerbated these existing inequalities, along with those in healthcare, criminal justice, economic sustainability and housing.

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Institutionalized racism must be dismantled, and those in leadership positions need to be held accountable. Parents must teach their children how to love and to understand the rights of all human beings. Only when we see our differences and similarities through a lens of humanity will the chains of inequity dissolve. Only then will the knee of racism be removed.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!