National Park Service Declares It Off-Limits To Development
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today declared the nation’s Racial Divide a National Historic Landmark, giving it protected status against developers who might try to close it.
The move comes on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s watershed “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, was a turning point in the civil rights movement, uniting whites and blacks together in common cause against racism.
“Dr. King taught us that racism is an evil that must be confronted wherever we find it,” said Obama. “But the last 50 years have taught us that we can never truly achieve a post-racial society while discrimination exists. By protecting the Racial Divide, we ensure that our nation’s troubled history is not whitewashed.”
Obama’s executive order empowers the National Park Service to preserve the Racial Divide for future generations. Anyone attempting to eliminate or bridge the gap will be subject to harsh penalties under the law.
The decision was lauded by Attorney General Eric Holder, who in 2009 said we were “essentially a nation of cowards” on race, adding that aside from the workplace, America “does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago.”
The order places up to 30 million acres under federal oversight. No privately owned land was affected, with the exception of a rodeo clown college seized under eminent domain.
Park Service officials said they would immediately begin building tourist facilities along the Racial Divide. All will be made accessible to the physically challenged (excluding the colorblind, a condition the administration does not recognize).
- The American Dream Myth Monorail, a haunting tour through Western capitalism that leads to a dead end for people of color;
- The Drum Majors for Justice diorama, which traces the evolution of civil rights leaders from Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton;
- The “We Can’t Overcome” Tent, an interactive display that educates visitors to spot “covert” or hidden bias. “When you see someone not being racist, that is the most pernicious form of racism,” said Holder;
- The Oprah Pavilion, which spotlights racism in entertainment, where black actors are relegated to stereotypical parts such as maids, butlers, the homeless, criminals, police officers, judges, lawyers, civil rights leaders, teachers, principals, entrepreneurs, inventors, doctors, nurses, firefighters, the clergy, scientists, military heroes, airline pilots, astronauts, authors, poets, and presidents;
- And a set of coin-operated “racial prism” viewfinders pointed backwards for a panoramic view of the past.
Media commentators praised the decision to protect the Racial Divide.
One veteran news anchor expressed hope that when families visit the Racial Divide, it will finally spark a long-delayed national conversation about race.
“I was like, again, ‘OK, white person, you know, this is a conversation that you are clearly uncomfortable with, and I have no problem seeing race, and I think we should talk about race,’” said Soledad O’Brien, whose five-part series “Black in America” was one of the most highly rated in CNN’s history.
John K. Herr is a Washington D.C.-based speechwriter and standup comedian (stage name “Herricane”). He has written for three governors and four Cabinet secretaries, and wrote jokes for President George W. Bush. He can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or follow him on Twitter (@jherricane).