O for the good old days, when the highest racial goal was "integration": remove the legal and social barriers that favor some groups at the expense of others. End the formal and informal stratification of society which treats minorities as "second class citizens." The "just society" is colorblind, and a man is judged by his character and not his color. And so on.
The vision seemed clear enough -- break down the legal barriers and the social ones would follow. Emancipation would lead to a general rise in minority status and achievements, and an increase in social harmony. Change the system and men's hearts would follow. The founding principles of this country need not be overthrown, but made applicable to all: "One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence" -- Martin Luther King, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963).
This racial objective of unity was based on a foundation of shared identity (we are all God's children), shared history (this nation was built on the blood and sweat of all our ancestors), and shared destiny (we are a city on a hill, a light to the nations). The idea was that America has a redemptive purpose in the world. Therefore we can and must lay aside the grievances and injustices and bitterness of many generations and work together for a common purpose for the benefit of all mankind, so that none is left out.
The Civil Rights Movement birthed this vision in the 50's, and buried it in the new millennium. It turns out that "unity" was not a vision but a mirage, a false dream that disguised the expropriation and exploitation of the old regime. The new mantra is "self-determination" -- where every ethnicity sets its own agenda, rules itself, and acts according to what benefits "the people" (meaning its constituents, not all Americans; meaning further, its self-appointed spokespeople, not all its constituents). Ethnics do not want "unity" with "them" -- because "they" control "the system" for their own advantage. The preferred policy is heightened self-awareness and ethnic separation ("identity politics"). Differentiation, not unity, is the sacred cause, the racial imperative of this generation.
In the last year, I have come across the following race-based organizations: college clubs, local political organizations, youth baseball teams, business and government co-ops, motorcycle clubs and an online dating site. None of these groups is "whites only", which would be illegal. All of them are minority-centric, a fact which raises no qualms with the media, university, churches or lawyers. These segregated organizations are not "de facto" mono-ethnic, i.e. made up of people who just happen to live in the same neighborhood. They are groups whose purpose is to enhance minority identity and "empower" the minority community against "them." "Them" is white people, considered not as individuals so much as a privileged elite, an oppressive system. These groups function in an adversarial role to the larger community.
So the modern race strategy is based not on achieving common identity through shared values and cooperation, but on the "reservation mentality": a certain portion of the economy and the society is walled off as a gated preserve, admittance restricted by color. Some university scholarships are reserved for minorities, certain courses and majors are dedicated to them. Businesses have to pay attention to race and gender in all hiring and promotion decisions. Government contracting agencies give priority to minority- or woman-owned businesses. The modern Civil Rights movement blesses all such favoritism, and agitates for ever more patronage as compensation for past injustice -- without the slightest concern for the moral or social consequences of such racial and gender preferences.
Martin Luther King's sacred cause of equality, though not disavowed, has been redefined: the only way to achieve equality in principle is to deny it in practice.