In College, I Marched Against Racism—And It Worked

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In College, I Marched Against Racism—And It Worked

Is there no one out there who cares about changing the world anymore? What happened to the passion, the love, the determination to make a difference? Today's youth spend their time sitting in front of their computers, but the people of my generation took a stand, took action, and reshaped our country. When I was in college, I marched against racism, and now there isn't racism anymore.

It was a turbulent time in American race relations—the late 1980s. I was just an undeclared major at that historic flashpoint of racial reckoning, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Those who weren't there just can't understand. They were dark, dark days, crying out for the light of an organized, campus-wide demonstration, and we heeded that call. We provided that light.

Many of us were having our eyes opened, often for the first time, to the extent of racial injustice in America. Galvanized by the protest songs of Public Enemy and the writings of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and caught up in the surging crest of a rising wave of a bold new dawn of a bright new awakening, we took to the streets.

We came together from every area of study to make a statement. We marched with banners and signs and chanted slogans that made it clear to the entire campus that we, the young people, opposed racism in no uncertain terms. Several black people even showed up, which was awesome, and we all got our pictures in the college paper. The next morning—poof—racism, in all its insidious forms, was gone forever.

Doesn't that give you the inspiration to go out and fight for whatever you believe in?

It's amazing, when you think about it, how one small group of committed students, almost all of them underclassmen in a relatively sedate Midwestern college town, could make history. If you require proof, look around you: Today we have black congressmen, black TV news anchors, and even a black man running for president. Oprah is a billionaire, and rap music is more popular than ever.

You're welcome.

Of course, it took more than that one march to end racism—we also put up dozens of flyers and got interviewed on the campus radio station.

We pinned our "Celebrate Difference" buttons to our "Carpe Diem" T-shirts, and proceeded to shake institutional racism to its core until it crumbled and fell into dust. And the whole thing, including the pre-march rally, took about 90 minutes.

It's tragic how the younger generation is willing to sit idly by and allow outrages and atrocities to persist. Can't they stop text-messaging each other long enough to march around for an hour and a half and utterly eradicate a social problem anymore? I only wish we had had the foresight that day to paint a few more signs calling for equal rights for gays and the transgendered, and demanding higher fuel standards for automobiles—why, we'd be living in a virtual utopia right now.

How many more must die in Darfur before a few hundred college kids meet in a leafy outdoor setting, chant, walk around, and bring an end to the killing once and for all?

Sometimes I want to get up there myself and rally the sophomores and juniors and seniors of this world to do something. Anything. But my generation has already done its part—we ended racism. Eighteen years ago, on that sunny college campus, we closed our nation's most shameful chapter, just like we ended rape when we took back the night that following year.

It's someone else's turn to take to the streets for the day.