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
"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
Smith, a UH alumnus, former Baptist minister
and studying Methodist minister, didn't place all the blame on college-age
"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 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"
"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
"Blacks are worried that if all races were
included in the civil rights, we (blacks) would be the last to be recognized,"
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
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
tap into that goodness."