Or rather a longstanding issue that populated the past, remains very relevant in the present and shows no sign of taking a breather for the future.
“I think the biggest issue facing our country today is really this issue of race, Martin told the Electronic Urban Report/EURweb while pointing out how little progress has been made on race despite progress made in other areas. “… our lives are lived in this little machine. You can call it a cell phone, a smart phone, a computer. You look at how many advances we’ve made on so many fronts, yet on that race front, it doesn’t feel like we’ve made very much progress at all.”
With high-profile incidents reigniting longstanding tensions between black people and law enforcement as well as the lack of black nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, race has consistently generated headlines in recent months. Back in 2008, the election of Barack Obama provided the genesis of a “post-racial” society where race relations were supposed to improve. Instead, things look to have regresses somewhat as the country seems more racially divided than ever under the watch of the first black president.
Noting the shift and how the world was in a different place 10 years ago, Martin mentioned that “we still have so far to go” when it comes to race.
“With Obama, we had this moment in the sun where we thought things were gonna be dramatically different, where all of a sudden if they could see a black man in the White House, they definitely could hire you, right? At a store. At a restaurant. They definitely would welcome you with open arms in the neighborhood. It just seemed like, how could you not? You voted for this guy. You gotta be OK, right?” the Special Needs Network, Inc. founder and president said.
“No one could have predicted, I think, the backlash and the vitriol and the divisiveness that would have followed what seemed like the most amazing moment in the history of this country…it just keeps rearing its ugly head. It’s not going anywhere. It’s America’s burden, I would say. It’s our challenge, our opportunity and in some ways our burden, what we do with it.”
As one of the leading voices on civil and human rights, Martin is known for speaking out on injustices ranging from police brutality and a lack of diversity in education to a case she’s working on that centers on neighbors suing the parents of an autistic child because they feel the child is a nuisance.
On Saturday (Jan. 30), the Harvard Law School graduate was honored for her work with the Advocate for Justice award at the Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles’ 40th annual scholarship and awards gala. On deck for Martin are hosting duties for the 47th NAACP Image Awards’ Ladies Brunch & Fashion Show. The event, which takes place Thursday (Feb. 4) in Los Angeles, will include a panel discussion moderated by Martin that will focus on black families and money.
Martin, an opponent of police brutality, is a supporter of Black Lives Matter. Although some believe the movement promotes a racist agenda without regard for people of other races with similar encounters with police, Martin is quick to mention how misunderstood the movement has become while referencing examples “where we can celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of one person or one group without it being an indictment of another group.
“So, yes, when we say black lives matter, that’s not an indictment or somehow a negative (comment) about others. It’s just an acknowledgment that African American lives matter and that the movement respects those disparities, those historical disparities and that there is something unique about being African American in the criminal justice system and your experience with a cop is going to look very different than even mine as a black woman and definitely a white guy or a white woman.”
As for criticism from traditional civil rights leaders about the lack of a centralized leader and organized, strategic plan, Martin highlighted that Black Lives Matter represents a new generation who have their own way of bringing about change.
“No, it’s not the civil rights movement of the ‘60s. No, they don’t have a Dr. King. They don’t have an Andrew Young. They don’t have a John Lewis. And they will tell you ‘we’re not looking for one.’ And they rejected the notion that Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or anybody that looks like Al Sharpton should co-opt and lead them. That’s not what they’re looking for,” she said. “It’s a different era. It’s a different generation and I applaud them. I’m oftentimes defending them because I do think they’re misunderstood and people manipulate and people purposefully malign for their own purposes. I don’t agree with everything they do, but I don’t have to. Nobody does. That’s not required.”
Regarding future leaders, it’s hard for Martin to deny the impact Black Lives Matter has on young people who have become activists from being motivated by its actions against injustice.
“You have to think about all the young people they’ve galvanized around this issue that otherwise would not have been,” Martin stated. “I think you can go to the university of Missouri, the hunger strike, the protests that happened on college campuses. I think all of that is a byproduct, people recognizing that they did have some power, that they could be a potent force.”