Tag Archives: MLK

MLK & Racial Inequality: State of the Dream

I cried three times yesterday.

Once, at historic nature of President Obama’s second inaugural address. Listening to him, I was seized by an enormous feeling of pride. Proud at the collective struggle required and achieved, all bound up in his re-election, pride in his personal achievements, as this battle has been hard fought. I can only applaud his perseverance, strength and determination, it is nothing short of inspirational considering the forces working against him.

My pride was multi-dimensional, for as I looked at him, I felt strongly that his place in the world is a shining example of what change times has wrought. I could feel a heavenly chorus of my ancestors applauding him, for he is the living embodiment of a long line of bloody human sacrifices, strife and struggle.

I do not have to invoke the names of Martin Luther, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, or Nat Turner, all of whom are a drop in the ocean of humanity that made this moment possible. But I invoke them anyway because to say their names fills me with love, respect and power. They’d probably be the first to say that they were but the righteous arm of justice… Of progress.

So yesterday, my heart could not help but remember the nameless slaves who died waiting for salvation; those who were beaten bloody as they fought for freedom, my Great Grandmother included, and those who had the strength of character to continue standing long after their spirits should have been broken. The Everyman and woman without whom I would not be who I am today.

And just as I grappled with the largeness of those thoughts, Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, One Today, which echoed many of my thoughts. We are, no matter our own individual strivings, the culmination of ancestral hopes, dreams and efforts, which brought on a second wave of happy tears.

I am truly happy that this moment occurred in my lifetime.

Many hours later, watching a special on MLK, I wept a final time in recognition of all that remains to be done.

President Obama, as I continually point out to all whom will listen, is not a civil rights leader. He wears the mantle of president and works well in the confines and dictates of his office. He’s been accused of not taking up the mantle for the poor and not speaking directly to the issues of African Americans which is largely true.

However, that truth sits inside another one. You can’t voice that without recognition of his position. I believe that his silence is not a falling of conscience, but mostly due to the politicization and polarization that still surrounds race in America. His seeming unwillingness to confront the myriad issues head on underscore the limitations of his reach as an American president. “Past is Prologue.”

You might be thinking, African Americans no longer need a civil rights leader. After all the progress that has been made, what for? I know you’re probably a bootstrap-believer-type. If so, you probably think we don’t need Affirmative Action anymore either. Look at Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson and Tiger Woods, to name a few. There is a long list of highly, visible celebrities who are…

NOT in the least bit indicative of the average African American.

In matters of racism, it’s best to rely on facts and barring that, the personal experience of those who fall victim to it. Opinions are not facts and if you are thinking some version of the above, you should know the statistics do NOT bear you out.

These days, people love to argue about why African Americans still talk about slavery and racism. *sigh* Frequently, we are accused of “race baiting” when we, or anyone else armed with a few facts, dares to mention the R word.

Ponder if you will the following statistics:

– The African American unemployment rate is 13.2%, higher than any other ethnic group. It has been twice that of Whites for the last 60 years. Check out this video by the Coalition for Change.
– Of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans, approx. 1 million are African American incarcerated. . Statistically speaking, every minority in America is more likely to be incarcerated than their White counterparts.
– African American home ownership is 44.8%, at it’s lowest level in 16 years, compared to Whites at 74.1%. Home ownership is one of the single biggest indicators of the middle class.

See the following link for The State of the Dream 2013 by United for a Fair Economy.

The statistics speak of a systemic inequality that can’t be overcome on a strictly, individual level. It is illustrative of institutional racism. It may even speak to ongoing, pervasive feeling of devaluation by African Americans. The one thing most people seem most unwilling to grapple with is the psychological effects of racism, yet they are absolutely germane to discussions on race.

The statistics show that while inequality has, arguably, changed on it’s face, it is still alive and well. To fight that on myriad fronts, we need a leader outside the constraints of politics, who will serve as a marshaling force, inspire a movement. A movement that will wake us up and bring us together collectively to fight for changes that are sorely needed, within and without. More progress. More action. More eradication of injustice. Only then will the majority be able to reach for a dream that is full of their God-given potential as human beings. Then, our ancestors could truly be at peace. #happythankyoumoreplease

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

National Day of Service: 1/19/13

Click here for the link to events in your neighborhood.

The Archives – The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change

What a fantastic find! I just had to share it because the principles of MLK day should be thought of for more than one day…

DigIn' the Humanities!

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , here is a link to a digital archive of letters and documents associated with Dr. King. This is a fascinating trove!

The Archive | The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.


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Raise your Voice…

Today, we honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who will never be forgotten. His self sacrifice, quest for justice, equality and message of unconditional love is  a shining example of what is best about humanity. Most importantly, he is an example of what change can be affected in the world when one believes deeply in self and takes up a cause.

I have spent the day ruminating about the State of our great union. Here are the things that jumped to mind…

– Since my lay-off in 2008, I have noticed the stealthy, steady rise of grocery items with horror. Even at a Costco, the discount mega store, things seem to be less and less discounted. Cashew Nuts, once $9.99 are now a whopping $15.99. Margarine has gone from $4.99 to $6.49. Canned veggies which one could once get for 89 cents have jumped to a whopping $1.29. Even Lima Beans, not in large culinary demand, are now $1.59. 

– I compare notes with my other friends and they confirm that everything they buy, meat in particular, is on the rise as well. Eating healthy has become harder because healthy and organic food, always expensive, is now astronomical and more of a luxury. Americans don’t need an excuse to get heavier.  They call it food inflation and they blame it on the rising cost of gas. Guess what? The cost of gas has risen for the consumer as well but who exactly do we have to blame or raise the prices on to make up for the shortfall?

– I took the bus into NY the other day and was horrified to discover that the fare is now $4.25. In 2008, it was $3.60. I had the gall to take a cab and once again found that the same route which cost approx. $9.00 before is now $15.00. The toll on the Lincoln Tunnel was $6.00 and is now $8.00. The toll on the NJ Turnpike has jumped from 30 cents to $1.80. Yes, they eliminated the 30 cents toll on the other side but WHO are they kidding?

– People who are working tell me that their lunch hours have been reduced to a half hour so their employers can get an extra 2.5 hours out of them for the week. Others have faced a decrease in hours so their employers can reduce the bottom line. Still others, are working like mad to keep their jobs in a stressful environment of increasing demands and a complete lack of job security as there are thousands who would take their jobs at a lesser wage given half a chance.

– The NBC news cited a poll last week stating that 1 million homes were foreclosed on in 2010 and 5 million homeowners are now at least two months behind in their mortgage payments, so they expect foreclosures will be even higher in 2011.

– In 2008, my 401K lost $50,000 in a scant 6 months. It took me 22 years to save that money. My boss’s portfolio was hit even harder and worst of all he was one year from retirement when this happened. Any person who retired in the last two years has had to face this grim reality.

– Bank corruption continues as illegal foreclosures continue to take place. Chase was caught this week for overcharging military families and foreclosing without justification.

– Many people I know, due to ongoing unemployment (not to mention the piddling amount one receives), have been forced to withdraw from their 401K to make ends meet during these very trying times. There was talk during the election of lifting the penalty for borrowing from one’s retirement savings temporarily, but like many promises that never materialized. So, to add insult to injury, people now owe the IRS penalties on the money they have borrowed to avoid even more dire financial catastrophes. 

– Walking the streets in NYC this month has been an exercise in terror as some of the garbage piles topped out at 4’H, forget about the width. Couple that with the snow piles and it makes for a joyous stroll with the rats. We all had ringside seats to the monumental failure of the City to clear away snow after the blizzard resulting in people being stranded in their homes, unable to get to work, unable to receive oil for heating and even 3 reported deaths. Yet, the city is not accountable.

– The national employment continues to hover at 9%  affecting millions.

In certain circles, I am proudly known as a rabble rouser. I am not an economist but I wonder when the fallout will end. I wonder, like many of us, when the fuckery with the banks will stop and we can get off the merry-go-round and go back to some semblance of normalcy. On this day, I wonder most of all why people are so apathetic about holding the powers that be responsible for their actions, or inaction if you prefer. Is it all we can do to strike out at the government on election day? Do we really have to continue putting our money in banks that continue levying penalties against us when their bottom line is shrinking due to technological advances and outsourcing? Or, jump the interest rates and cancel our credit cards for no reason at all? Do we really have to pay higher taxes to govt when they fail us, lacking disaster recovery plans in this day and age, endangering our lives and livelihood? What happened to the power of the boycott? What happened to the beauty of dissent? What happened to the very loud voice of the public speaking it’s displeasure at moral and ethical outrages? Do we really have to sit by as the rich screw us over, paying less taxes while the numbers of the New Poor increase in frightening numbers?

What happened to social consciousness and the voice of the collective? Why do we believe that we are so powerless to effect change in our world? How do we expect things to change if all we do is gripe about the need for change and how the president and all his cronies have failed us while we stare at our computer or TV screens enraged? And for those of us who have very luckily not been impacted by the financial decline, please explain how your conscience allows you to continue blithely along while your fellow man falls by the wayside. Clearly, we are paying for our blind faith in a system that has been riddled with corruption for decades. 

Why do we give so little thought to the lasting implications this will have for our children? The mounting national debt is not the only thing they will have to worry about.  The American dream is under attack, don’t you think? What a marked and very sobering change this is from the times of the 60’s and 70’s when American people stood and died for their rights. What do you think Dr. King would say about the State of the Union today?

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.