Racism: Past and present

Would you pay more for a recyclable, hydrogen-based fuel system?More USA TODAY Snapshots At Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery on Monday, Myrlie Evers-Williams was honored by black and white politicians at the grave of her husband, civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, to mark the 40th anniversary of his death. The decorated veteran of World War II was assassinated in the driveway of his home for trying to register black Mississippians to vote. Both commemorations teach young people about a shameful era -- and a heroic struggle -- they never experienced. Those fighting to overturn segregationist laws in the 1960s staged protest marches and sit-ins, while their foes killed civil-rights activists and shut public institutions rather than integrate them. Today, the ''whites only'' signs that once hung over water fountains, bus waiting rooms and lunch counters are found only in museums. Yet ghosts of that past still haunt the nation. * Twelve blacks from the Texas prairie town of Tulia who spent four years in prison were released Monday after being wrongly convicted of drug charges. The case against them hinged solely on the testimony of a bigoted white undercover cop who has been charged with fabricating the charges. * Just Tuesday, a reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan from Mississippi was sentenced to life in prison for slaying a black man 37 years ago. The killing was an apparent plot to lure the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. into the state to be assassinated. * Battles still are being waged over the right to fly the Confederate flag, a repugnant symbol of American slavery. The fights are not only in the Deep South, but also in Maryland and Missouri cemeteries, an Iowa park and New Jersey and Kentucky schools. Those examples show that America's journey to racial equality has traveled a great distance in 40 years but is not ended. Mourners heard that message Monday at a memorial service in Los Angeles for actor Gregory Peck, who took the then-risky role of a Southern white lawyer defending an innocent black man in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. ''He said . . . that story needed to be told,'' Cardinal Roger Mahony recalled. ''Racism and discrimination needed to be seen for what they were . . . evil.'' They are evil still. That's why the difficult stories need to be told to new generations. Copyright