Experts Speak out on Racial Politics since March on Washington

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It has been 50 years since the historic March on Washington brought the fight for civil rights to the front of America's consciousness. Now, a half century later, the inevitable question is: 'What's next?'

From the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to race and politics experts in Richmond, most agree things have changed mostly for the best in the past 50 years. But to continue moving into the future, they say it's wise to look to the past.

"All of this history is a continuation," said King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia NAACP.

You don't need to watch the grainy videos to know things have changed in 50 years.

"We've really seen exponential progress in terms of race relations," said Dr. Ernest McGowen, race and politics expert at the University of Richmond.

But despite visible progress, McGowen says this dream isn't finished.

"There is still inequality when it comes to job opportunities, when it comes to educational attainment," said McGowen. "The question now becomes how exactly do we deal with that? And that's something the entire country, Republicans and Democrats, are dealing with."

Khalfani  says progress - then and now - isn't born from the dreams of few, but from the actions of many.

"Dr. King was a man of action; he wasn't a dreamer. He made it happen. He made it happen against the odds, and he was courageous," said Khalfani.

Many say if nothing else, it's a legacy of grassroots action that persists 50 years later.

"We have a lot at stake in the elections that are coming up and in people's participation," said Khalfani.

"That's what politics is all about. It's not just going to the voting booth, but it is getting together as a collective around a joint idea and trying to petition your government in order to make changes," said McGowen. 

So there's more work to do, but looking back -

"I definitely think that there has been tremendous progress and that Dr. King would be proud," said McGowen.

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