Wednesday, June 21, 2023

How the Memory of the ’60s Civil Rights Era Is Being Co-Opted

Our celebration of Juneteenth is a direct result of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The battles led by Martin Luther King Jr. and many others created an enduring legacy on which the continued fight for civil rights rests. But what happens when this legacy is manipulated, distorted, and appropriated to further agendas far removed from the original purpose? What does it mean when various causes are labeled the “civil rights struggle of our time?” Does it dilute the impact of the original battle? When wielded in the wrong hands, could it even be seen as an affront to 50 years of civil rights progress? These questions form the central theme of my conversation today with Hajar Yazdiha.

Hajar is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, and she has critically examined how various movements, including those on the far right, have appropriated the symbols and rhetoric of the civil rights era to advance their cause. She examines this in her new book  The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Hajar Yazdiha: