The Civil Rights Movements in Ireland and America

Fall Road is deserted. Only a few dirt-caked, barefoot, Irishmen can be

seen shivering in the adjacent park. We walk past the Catholic neighborhoods

knowing, at any moment, buildings might explode and automatic weapon fire could

lacerate the air on every side of us. Belfast is charming, apart from the harsh

reality of guerrilla warfare and terrorism being common occurrences. For the

first time, throughout my three month tour of seventeen different European

countries, I feel truly threatened. The tension carries itself into a nearby pub

where an old man asks “Are you jus daft? Or do ya have relatives here?” His

words hinted at my grandfather's blunt, yet kindly, expression concerning his

birthplace in N. Ireland, “If you haven't been there yet, don't go there.”

I can remember the lyrics of a Naughty by Nature song blaring over my

car radio, “If you have never been to the ghetto, don't ever come to the ghetto,”

as I put in a tape. My thought stream continues as it takes me to another place

where guerrilla warfare and terrorism are a part of daily life.

The gunshots and unruly pitbull barking registers over the calm of the

wet playground. Trash strings the streets and every dwelling has an eight foot,

black, metal fence circuitously about it. Two white faces gape over the hood of

a parked Cadillac. Besides the police parked down the block, they are probably

the only Caucasians in a five mile square radius. Two companies of drug dealers

fire at will scrambling for control of a superior capital making outpost. Even

at nine o'clock in the morning the combat tract roars on.

I was one of those faces peering over the car hood with horror and

revolution in my eyes. N. Richmond is a product of the same type of oppression

and violence that hacks deep into the people of N. Ireland. In the logical

evolution of an oppressed people a civil rights movement was essential. “It was

necessary to bravely confront our most explosive issues as a people:

Racial[religious, gender, class...] hierarchy and the maldistribution of wealth

and power.” 1If only for a brief moment we achieved this, at least it happened.

We must study the past in order to get to the future. If you don't know where

you came from, how can you possibly figure out where you are going and that is

why many people stay rooted in the same place.

For centuri...

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...yone must be willing to walk down it . Only the people of today

can change things for the better. History simply shows us how the problem(s)

came into being and how the people became what they are. Other disciplines such

as psychology, sociology, economics, and even plain common sense may help but in

the end human beings in society, as in their private lives, have to work thing

out for themselves. We all have a measure choice when it comes to altering

their own personal lives.

If blame is to be appointed for today's situation in Ireland as well as

America, it should be laid not on the heads of men of today but of history. If a

personal villain is sought then perhaps it should be placed on the successive

governments of Britain and America who, racked by past events, aborted their

responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the ghettos of America. We are all

prisoners of history and the views we have learned from it.

History is a difficult prison to escape from and the history of America

and Ireland are as difficult as any. The Civil Rights Movements were a brief

moment of looking past prison walls and coming to the realization of change. But

it didn't last long.
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