Racism run amok. Where is the “dream”?

Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial | Photo credit: Tom LeGro/PBS NewsHour

Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial | Photo credit: Tom LeGro/PBS NewsHour

At the January 10th Longmont City Council meeting Mayor Dennis Coombs and the City Council designated the week of January16 through 20, 2012, as ‘Honoring Dr. Martin L. King Week’ in Longmont, Colorado. The proclamation honors Dr. Martin L. King’s legacy to continue furthering the cause for civil rights, social justice, diversity and inclusion. The Civil Rights Movement left lasting benefits for us all and it is important that this legacy be passed on to the next generation right here in Longmont.

It stipulated in part that “WHEREAS, January 16, 2012, marks the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., holiday, in which we honor the Civil Rights work of Dr. King and the countless supporters who sacrificed to sow seeds for a movement of peace, equality and justice for all. We commemorate the universal unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.”

Yet in spite of the legacy left to our nation by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., racism was celebrated by Newt Gingrich and the South Carolina Republican Debate audience last weekend. Could there have been a greater slap in the face to the heritage of King’s accomplishments with his commemorative birthday just hours away.

Gingrich’s relegation of poor children to janitorial duties, the supposed lack of work ethic in the African-American community and the incessant references to the nation’s first black president in language that casts him an someone other an a genuine American is stomach churning. And the South Carolina audiences indisputable venom in applauding this racist likely got similar cheers from “sympathetic” audiences watching at home.

People of all colors have suffered because of the robbery of the financial industry that sent this nation into a tailspin, barely averting a second Great Depression. Those who caused the near economic collapse to this day have refused to accept responsibility for their actions and lack of moral character.

The damage wrought has affected the African-American community in far greater numbers and in even more severe circumstances. A recent email from former U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), and who is again running for that office, placed the African-American situation in perspective.

“In America, whites have 20 times the wealth of African-Americans. So says census data.

Not 20% more. Not twice as much. Twenty times as much. Specifically, the median household wealth for whites in 2009 was $113,149, and the median household wealth for African-Americans was $5,677.

When I heard this a few months ago, it was not entirely news to me. When I was in Congress, I read the reports that the Federal Reserve sent to Members; to me, that was interesting reading. In the appendix to one of those Fed reports, from a survey of respondents selected in 2007, these numbers caught my eye:

White, non-Hispanic households – $149,900

Hispanic and African-American households – $23,300

So from $149,900 down to $113,149, and from $23,300 (including Hispanics) down to $5,677. These numbers confirm just how hard the Great Recession has whacked minority households.

But there is a deeper issue. Can someone please explain to me how, in a country where we are told again and again that we are ‘all created equal,’ one group ends up with 20 times as much as another?

MLK’s dream was that his four young children would ‘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.’ What are we supposed to think – that one group has twenty times as much character as another?

In the face of incredible numbers like these, you will still find right-wingers who insist that America is now a color-blind society (except for the scourge of ‘reverse racism’). But the numbers tell a different story. They suggest that America is not a color-blind society, but rather a racism-blind society.

And ask yourself: when has any elected official, ANY elected official, ever discussed this inconvenient truth, and tried to discern what should be done about it? Why is there a veil of silence over such a salient, central fact about the country we all share?

But here we are, 49 years later, his ‘four young children’ as old as I am, and one of them already gone from us.

And I have to say, about that dream of equality that he had, it’s still just a dream.

Just a dream.”

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