The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed the year I turned 18, graduated high school, felt I was entering the adult world. It was going to be a better world; my generation would see to that.

I had been through the ’50s and first half of the ’60s. I can’t remember when I first found out that some people weren’t allowed to vote. I can’t remember the day when I first found out that my kindergarten best friend, Karen, was supposedly not “like” me as I had thought (even though we were the only girls in the class tall enough to look each other eye-to-eye), but was “different” because she and I had different-color skin (even though lots of other kids had the same color skin as each of us). Whatever day it was, my reaction was similar to my older son’s when he first heard, at an even younger age, that some people thought women couldn’t do certain kinds of work: “That’s unfair, and really stupid.” I waited for my country to stop being unfair and stupid.

I was still waiting when I watched on our black-and-white TV as a huge mass of people stood in our nation’s capital, listening as I was to Martin Luther King tell us his dream. I waited for my country to fulfill his dream, which in any rational and moral world would be everyone’s dream.

I waited through assassinations and through protesters being attacked with firehoses and dogs for trying to bring fairness to our elections. I remember the people who put their lives on the line–and sometimes lost their lives–to put an end to this. We thought they succeeded.

No, I never thought that racism was gone. But I did think that each hard-won step would finally be accepted, that the same battles would not have to be re-fought forty, fifty years later.

In 1965, I thought better of my generation.

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