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The Torch Must Pass

Rowan Wolf

In short order, we have lost three matriarchs of social equality - Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, and now Coretta Scott King. I teach at a community college, and I know first hand that all too many of the coming generation think that inequality is the stuff of history. Many feel that only remnants remain in the form of individual biases. Of course, they have no biases, but a few "uneducated" folks do.

I stand day after day in front of representatives of the 20 to 30-something generation, and feel that somehow it is 1940 again. That period of time when the white majority was oblivious to racism, and before the women sent home from the factories after World War II realized that they were capable of much more than they were allowed to do.

I am sure that others - present and past - have stood stunned that in such a short amount of time so much could be forgotten ... rewritten ... made invisible. How could all of the struggle be accepted so blandly - if it is recognized at all?

I find myself being tugged between rage and despair when confronted with the blank (or disbelieving) stares of students at the discussion of societal racism, sexism, classism, homophobia. Of course, I teach sociology. That means approaching these topics from a perspective beyond individual "belief" or family "influences." But this generation is so steeped in the cult of the individual that many don't recognize there is anything more binding to "society" than that folks live in the same country. Their ideas are all uniquely their own.

We live in a time when the sky is literally and figuratively falling - a time when we desperately need to understand how our history of injustice bears fruit in our lives. New Orleans was just a very public demonstration that injustice is alive and well. All too many of the students in front of me have ready justifications for those left behind to die. The main ones being "they chose not to leave" and "their poverty was their own fault."

There are those moments when I feel very alone as I face those blank and disbelieving eyes. But I know that others stand with me, and have stood before me. Others struggled, suffered, sacrificed, and died to place me in front of those eyes. I have had the privilege of being part of those struggles.

Now I realize that one by one those who passed the torch to me are passing on to other struggles and rewards. I feel a very personal void, a chill wind against my back, where once they stood. Further, I am face to face with my own mortality. I look at these faces and wonder who will take the torch from me.

Rowan Wolf is a columnist for Project for the Old American Century,
  and the editor of Radical Noesis and Uncommon Thought Journal .
 Her email is [email protected]

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