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Our history continues to repeat itself

Casey Thomas | 10/30/2013, 4:33 p.m. | Updated on 10/30/2013, 4:34 p.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I was asked this week to speak at my alma mater, the University of North Texas, at the monthly meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I consider it an honor anytime I’m invited to speak anywhere, especially at UNT. The subject I was asked to speak on was how activism has changed throughout the generations, from my time on campus until now.

As I began to think about what I would say to the students, I thought back to my time on campus. Contrary to popular opinion, I was not active in student government in grade school. As a matter of fact, I didn’t pay any more attention in government or history class than was required to pass the course. I didn’t get “active” in politics or community involvement until my sophomore year in college. At that time, I was on-line for Kappa Alpha Psi, and I was vice president of the Progressive Black Student Organization at UNT. I began to notice at this time, that there were not a lot of African American students or faculty on the campus and this was the beginning of my time as an activist.

After I went over, I became an active member of the UNT chapter of the NAACP. My fraternity brother, Dr. Artist Thornton Jr., was the driving force in starting the chapter on campus and was pushing for the city of Denton to start a police review board to monitor police activity. He would encourage the Kappas to attend some of the meetings and show our support by becoming members. Little did I know, one day I would go on to become president myself of the Dallas NAACP.

The one thing that I noticed from time on campus to now is how the more things change, the more they stay the same. We would do everything short of giving away money to get students to come to our meetings. We would pass out flyers in the student union and on campus to get more people to join. We would even place a table in the middle of the union to hold our membership drives.

As time goes by, I notice something. It gets easier to rewrite events of the past. Case in point, you would think that every Black person during the Civil Rights Movement was out protesting and picketing local establishments. The truth of the matter is that most of them were afraid; either afraid of losing their jobs, or afraid of losing their lives. Most people would go so far as to tell those who were protesting that things would eventually get better if they would just sit down and be quiet. It took courage to stand up to people who used fear and intimidation to force others to accept a second-class citizenship. For this reason, Black preachers despised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and didn’t want him to come to their city.

I bring this up because it is easy for my generation to go back to our college alma mater and berate students on campus about not standing up for what they believe in. By telling them how back in the day everyone went to class, studied in the library and fought against discrimination and other forms of prejudice when we were on the yard. That is just not true. Just like today, most students were more interested in finding out who they could hook up with, or when the next party was, than making a difference in the lives of others.

Now that we have graduated and many are too old to strut, or “go around” at the parties, let’s keep it real with those who are following in our footsteps. They need to know there is about 20 percent of students on campus who are going to be involved in student organizations. However, that 20 percent will learn lessons that are much more valuable than what they will learn in the classroom. This will lay the foundation for the larger world that awaits what they have to offer.