Wensday, January 16, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 73



Speaker: Today's civil rights rest in students' hands

By Keenan Singleton
Daily Cougar Staff

As he gazed upon a nearly empty Houston Room on Tuesday night at the University Center, United Nations advocate Marlon Smith was able to
paint his picture of "Generation X's" apathetic view towards racism and civil rights with far less than a thousand words.

"Many in this generation don't know that racism exists," Smith said. "They don't realize that racism is now more covert and lurks in the shadows.
Just because there aren't any 'Colored Only' signs doesn't mean that the problem has vanished.

"This generation has really taken an 'I don't care' mentality," Smith said. "The younger generation is the most knowledgeable about the struggles
of racism, but has the most indifferent attitude about it. They feel as if everything that could be done has, they feel as if we have marched and
protested enough without result."

Smith was at UH to present a speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. And while the speech stayed close to the slain civil rights
leader's message, Smith also remarked that change needed to begin at the college level, with the students.

"On today's campuses, students are more concerned about earning a degree than fighting racism," Smith said. "In turn, the institutions that are
meant to enlighten us now make us more narrow-minded."

Smith, a UH alumnus, former Baptist minister and studying Methodist minister, didn't place all the blame on college-age students.

"The Black Power generation has either forgotten in their quest for success, or believes that the fight is the fight of the new generation," Smith

Unlike textbooks that display photos of seemingly endless protesters, Smith contends the civil rights movement was a "movement of the few, not
the masses."

"The movement was overexaggerated in many respects," he said. "In truth, the movement was a struggle of the black elites, that only tied into the
lower classes later. When the more affluent blacks got better positions, the movement died."

Smith believes civil rights as we know them today need to be redefined, from a "black-only" struggle to a "human" struggle.

"This cannot be only the black community's fault," he said. "Civil rights must be once again tied with human rights."

He believes that hasn't happened for a selfish reason.

"Blacks are worried that if all races were included in the civil rights, we (blacks) would be the last to be recognized," Smith said.

Although his lecture was titled "Redefining Civil Rights," Smith chose to redefine the title.

"The purpose of this speech is not to redefine civil rights," he said. "I just want to return it to its original definition. The old one was too narrow in
focus. To do that, we have to accept the civil rights movement has been stuck and useless for some time. The movement has to be grassroots
and done together with other races and the oppressed."

Asked if he believed civil rights could be redefined, Smith closed with this:

"Human nature is capable of unlimited greatness. We can do boundless amounts of things. We are just too concerned with ourselves and can't
tap into that goodness."

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