Tag Archives: Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

An idea fifty years in the making that needs to be acted on now…The Poor People’s Campaign

One of the biggest tricks the Trump administration has been able to pull off is pointing to rises in the stock market as evidence that he, at least before COVID-19, created the greatest economy in the history of this country, while it has been great for the Jeff Bezos of the world, the reality is that it couldn’t be further from the truth for the vast majority of Americans. A few telling statistics:

  • In 1980, the 90/10 ratio in the U.S. stood at 9.1, meaning that households at the top had incomes about nine times the incomes of households at the bottom. The ratio increased in every decade since 1980, reaching 12.6 in 2018, an increase of 39%.14. Not only is income inequality rising in the U.S., it is higher than in other advanced economies.
  • The most widely used measure to track homelessness is HUD’s Point in Time (PIT)count, which identified 567,715 homeless people on a single night in January 2019. About 63% of individuals counted were sheltered, and 37% were unsheltered. There are many indications that the actual number of homeless people is much higher. The National Coalition for the Homeless points out that the PIT count largely misses recently homeless individuals staying in supportive housing, paid for with federal and local homelessness funds. In 2017, this population added up to 503,473, pushing the total number of homeless people in the U.S. above 1 million.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.
  • Among Americans born in the late 1980s, only 44% were in jobs with higher socioeconomic status than their parents when both were age 30. At the same time, 49% had lower status positions, according to Hout, who published a study on millennials in the 2019 Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality Pathways Magazine.
  • Medical bills were the most significant cause of U.S. bankruptcies. A new study from academic researchers found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues —either because of high costs for care or time out of work. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical problems and bills.

In December 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced a plan to bring together poor people from across the country for a new march on Washington. This march was to demand better jobs, better homes, better education—better lives than the ones they were living. Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy explained that the intention of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”

In August of 2020, magnified by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we are still dealing with many of the same issues that Dr. King addressed with his Poor People’s Campaign. Today our President uses misinformation and lies to convince the masses they are doing better than they are. He devises speeches to tap into the fears and subconscious racism embedded in each of us to keep the masses divided rather than united. Pointing fingers at each other for any economic troubles they encounter, rather than banding together and demanding that economic policies be devised that help not just the wealthy and large corporations but the masses as well. Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson articulated how effective Trump’s game plan could be when he said:

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

A popular saying for many in the Trump base is that we’re losing our America. But the truth is it was never, for most of them anyway, “their” America. The America they claim they are losing was and has always been the America of the rich white man. Access to the best schools and quality health care. The ability to “legally” manipulate the tax system to shelter money from the ever-increasing taxes they pay. They are consistently increasing their bottom lines at the expense of the average American.

Now let’s be clear here and misunderstand what I am saying. Not every wealthy white man acts this way or that they are inherently evil or solely responsible for many of the ills that the average working American, regardless of color or gender, face on an everyday basis. I am saying that there are a select few who have always had the money and the power to control the narrative. To keep the masses at each other throats, fighting for the scraps thrown their way.

It is incredible how often the poorest of the poor will vote against their self-interest because they have been led to believe it is in their best interest to ensure the wealthy’s well-being. Ensure their well-being because they are told that if they do, one day they will drink from that same prosperous cup as the wealthy. The concept that they are more like that person they have been conditioned to hate than to the wealthy who promote the narrative they feed into is foreign to them.

The truth is Dr. King had it right in 1967, and if he had lived to see his campaign through, he would have been seen as more of a threat to the “establishment’s” way of life than anything he accomplished during the civil rights movement. There is power in numbers and unity. Suppose most Americans put aside their hatred of each other, embraced their similarities, and united in the fight against inequality. In that case, there is no telling what this country could accomplish in eradicating economic inequality—a country with affordable and quality health care and education for all. Wage equality and a tax system that treated the 99% the same as the 1% and maybe as a byproduct of coming together to fight the inequalities we all face, we’ll gain a better understanding of each other. Now that’s a dream worth fighting for.

I May Not Get There With You

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I may not get there with you.

Just seven of the four thousand one hundred and seventy-one words in Martin Luther King’s Jr. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech. That speech would be the last one he ever delivered as he was assassinated the very next day at the young age of 39. There are so many speeches and quotes uttered by Dr. King that have personally motivated and inspired me to be a better person. But those seven words, above all others, have always had a special meaning to me.

Dr.King delivered those words in a speech to support a strike by 1,300 sanitation workers, mostly African-American men, who were protesting the horrendous working conditions, poverty-level wages, and the city’s refusal to recognize their union, sadly issues that are still prevalent today. With those seven words, Dr. King told the world he was aware his own life might very well be cut short because of his crusade to force America to abide by the words on which it was founded. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But he was not afraid to die. Not because he embraced death, not because he wanted to die. Because, as he said in his own words, our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter. So on that night, he refused to keep silent; he told everyone in Memphis, Tennessee that night that now was not the time to turn back out of fear. Now was the time to press on down the path of righteousness even if that path was fraught with inherent dangers. That they could not sit quietly in fear and accept the injustices they were being subjected to, it would be unconscionable to do so. Today we celebrate his birthday, and I ponder what humanity could accomplish, what heights we could reach, where we may already be if each of us had even a fraction of the resolve and courage that Dr.King had to do what was right despite what it may cost us personally. I may not get there with you – just seven words but seven words that still resonate loudly today.

We’ve come a long way…We’ve got a long way to go.

It is not an intrinsic part of human nature to be intolerant to another human because they differ in some way from you. Intolerance is taught as has been pointed out many times before if you watch two children of different ethnic groups play with each other you will see no sign of racism. These children do not see color and have no preconceived notion of who or what the other one represents other than a playmate. However as the children grow and their minds begin to expand they begin to both consciously and subconsciously pick up on the seemingly human culture of sticking with their own race because it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, Neighborhoods become ‘unintentionally” segregated, as children age their circle of friends becomes more and more homogenous. Job offers are made by identifying a person’s skin color, ethnic group, gender, religion, etc. rather than a person skill set. Intolerance leads to many things, the overwhelming majority bad, from workplace and housing discrimination, pay inequality, segregation, to an irrational fear of the unknown qualities of someone who shares the same basic human DNA structure but simply looks different, has a different belief system or was born on the opposite side of a man made line in the earth defining one country from another.

As we prepare to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this upcoming Monday one can only contemplate that he would no doubt be pleased with the many strides this country has made since his passing. The election of President Barack Obama a fulfillment of his dream that his four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. But as far as we have come as a nation we are still a long way from achieving the America that Dr. King gave his life for.

  • Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 40 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.
  •  According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, as of 2017 there were around 554,000 homeless people in the United States on a given night.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 2017, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 40 million Americans including more than 12 million children.
  • African-American unemployment remains about twice as high as white unemployment. In 2018, black unemployment averaged 7.4 percent, compared to an average of 3.7 percent for whites.
  • In every age group, current trends and policies are widening the ownership gap between African Americans and other groups. This gap reflects two fundamental factors: First, African American homeownership was particularly battered in the housing crisis, sharply reducing household wealth among African American families and dramatically lowering the long-term prospects for recovery for black homeownership at all ages. Second, African Americans continue to lag other races and ethnicities in employment, wages and income.
  •  According to FiveThirtyEight police officers are indicted in fewer than 1% of killings, but the indictment rate for civilians involved in a killing is 90%.
  • According to the Guardian people who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual.
  • According to Mapping Police Violence 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed.

Sadly in 2019 a member Steven King a representative of Congress told the New York Times “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” and King is unfortunately not alone in his ideas. When asked to comment on King’s comments President Trump did not denounce them instead saying he hasn’t been following the story. As Dr. King so eloquently put it: “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” But this should come as no surprise as the President has consistently defended white nationalists; sought to exploit the census to dilute the political power of minority voters; described immigration as an infestation, warning that it was “changing the culture of Europe”; derided black and Latino immigrants as coming from “shithole countries,” while expressing a preference for immigrants from places like “Norway”; and generally portrayed nonwhite immigrants as little more than rapists, drug dealers, and murderers at every opportunity. All this to pander to a base in America that believes to “Make America Great” we need to harken back to a time before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was even a thought in his parent’s minds.

However I remain hopeful. As I’ve said before I believe this country is headed in the right direction, ever so slowly. It is up to us as a people to raise our voices as one and drown out those who would have Dr. King’s dream become just that a dream and never a reality. We’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go. Let us not lose sight of the finish line and march to it together in brotherhood.