Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
On Monday we celebrate the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King and honor him for his work with the Civil Rights movement. One of his most famous speeches was the 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech that he gave in Washington, D.C. to a crowd of thousands. In that speech he laid out his vision and hopes for the Civil Rights movement. I would like to review some of his words and discuss if his dream came true for African-Americans and minorities throughout our country. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” ‘ Huffington Post
Those words seem clear enough, but at the time Rev. King gave this speech, it had been 100 years since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the African-American was not free and equal to the white man in this country. Jim Crow laws throughout the South kept African-Americans isolated and humiliated. Lynchings and beatings were still far too common. So how has the South progressed since Dr. King expressed his dream?
It seems clear that life in the South has improved for African-Americans. African-Americans have become professionals and teachers and even Mayors of cities and towns throughout the South. Black Congressmen and women have been elected from the South and Jim Crow is but a remnant of the history books. In the North, Blacks have also progressed in all walks of life. One African-American of mixed heritage grew up to be elected to the Illinois State House and the United States Senate and made it all the way to the White House. The ability of Barack Obama to become President was made possible by Dr. King and his comrades who brought the Civil Rights movement to all of our doorsteps.
Do these successes mean that Dr. King’s ‘Dream” did come true? I submit that at least one aspect of his dream is partly unfulfilled. While African-Americans have made significant progress, they still lag financially behind their white counterparts. “The gap between Black and white household [accumulated] wealth quadrupled from 1984 to 2007, totally discrediting the conventional wisdom that the U.S. is slowly and fitfully moving towards racial equality, or some rough economic parity between the races. Like most American myths, it’s the direct opposite of the truth. When measured over decades, Blacks are being propelled economically downward relative to whites at quickening speed, according to a new study by Brandeis University.” Alternet Without equal opportunity in the financial arena, can it truly be said that Dr. King’s dream has come true?
“A huge wealth gap has opened up between black and white people in the US over the past quarter of a century – a difference sufficient to put two children through university – because of racial discrimination and economic policies that favour the affluent. A typical white family is now five times richer than its African-American counterpart of the same class, according to a report released today by Brandeis University in Massachusetts. White families typically have assets worth $100,000 (£69,000), up from $22,000 in the mid-1980s. African-American families’ assets stand at just $5,000, up from around $2,000. A quarter of black families have no assets at all. The study monitored more than 2,000 families since 1984. “We walk that through essentially a generation and what we see is that the racial wealth gap has galloped, it’s escalated to $95,000,” said Tom Shapiro, one of the authors of the report by the university’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy.” Guardian
While significant progress has been made in many areas, the African-American is still trailing far behind his white brothers and sisters financially. If that huge disparity in income and assets can’t be shrunk, will the Black man ever be truly free? Dr. King initiated a huge improvement in the freedom for many, but his work is not completely done. When we celebrate the day set aside to honor his legacy, maybe we should think of ways that the financial gap between blacks and whites can be narrowed. Without all people being equal in all areas, how can any of us really be free? What ideas do you have?
Additional reference: US Constitution.net