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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Now it’s up to us

Issac J. Bailey Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News

I never knew what to do with the Rev. H.H. Singleton, the man who recently stepped down after a few decades as the head of the Conway, S.C., branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He remains a member of the organization’s national board.

I’ve argued with him – heatedly – primarily over our differing views concerning race and civil rights.

I’ve admired him, knowing that he frequently turned back those claiming discrimination when he felt their charges suspect – even while much of the public thought he saw racism behind every bush.

I’ve laughed with him about the inevitable physical changes men go through as they age. (I’d tell you more about that one, but it’s a family newspaper.)

I’ve known he was in my corner every time he called the newspaper unannounced just to check on me and my colleagues.

“They still treating you right over there, Bailey?” he’d asked, making it clear he was ready to create civil unrest if things were wrong.

And I’ve covered many of his news conferences, even one where he discussed the need to crack down on racial profiling by police while the public was in mourning. It was held only days after a white police officer was killed by a black motorist.

I’ve never known what to do with him, or Kweisi Mfume, who recently stepped down as head of the national NAACP, or a host of other civil rights leaders from older generations.

They frustrate me. Fascinate me. Inspire me. They are of the generation who faced the dogs and water hoses and Jim Crow and inadequate school facilities and still marched and became educated and stood firm and kicked down the doors through which I’ve walked.

They helped provide a freedom I otherwise would not have known. And I’m grateful for it, as I should be.

But they anger me. Too many seem desperate to dictate what I should believe, who I should vote for and how I should help future generations gain an even greater sense of freedom and equality. Too many too often stand behind podiums and on stages and berate those – often those young and black such as myself – for daring to disagree.

Too many seem bothered that my generation is enjoying the freedom that their generation helped provide.

I’ve never known what to do with the Rev. Singleton and other such leaders who are stepping into retirement. But I know what to say to them.

Thank you. Now trust us to take it from here.