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Why We Need Another Martin Luther King Jr April 21, 2011

Posted by marchooks in American Society.
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2 comments

I’d like to start out by saying, I am not African American. In fact, I’m white, from the suburbs and grew up in a middle class family. What I am though, is an observer of our society and the state is in. And with full disclosure made, I will continue unabated.

During the 1950’s in America an influential and charismatic figure emerged in our country. We was a preacher, and a son of a preacher with sharp looks, an educated mind, and as it would be seen, a fierce courage. His name was Martin Luther King Jr., and what he did for African Americans and this country as a whole forever changed its landscape. Most people know about the “I Have a Dream” speech or “The Letter From a Birmingham Jail” but what you may not know is the death threats he received and the constant danger he was in. Make no mistake, he knew that he would give his life for this cause and in fact he did. And on April 4Th, 1968 not only did he die, but a movement as well. A single white male, effectively cut the head off of the civil rights movement. In his stead there would be many that would try to stand up, but would eventually fail. From Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton have tried to fill his shoes. Although they may have had the best intentions in mind, there is truly something missing from both. When you hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak, your heart fills up with hope and courage. He had an inextricable effect on people.

As a look at the state of America more than 40 years later, especially the state of black America, I can’t help but wonder. Are we throwing away his legacy? Is black America going backwards? And if so, how? How did they let it slip away? If you look at statistics the rate of poverty among African Americans is at a staggering 24.3%. (2006; Census Bureau) One in four blacks is in poverty, and it is unknown how many are close to that poverty level. Compare that to Hispanics at 20%, Asians at 10%, and whites at 8%. You can also look to the high school drop out rate, worst for blacks in Wisconsin, is at 60%. I also, personally hear stories from teachers that have predominantly black students. I hear them tell me how much they enjoy teaching freshman the most because more than 50% of the students show up. And that black students are teased endlessly if they are studious because they are said to be “acting white”. I wouldn’t presume that these facts and observations come as a shock to the American public. The news we hear everyday, of the high rates of crime and the devastating poverty only serve as a fleeting reminder of the state of blacks in America.

I do not want this to seem like it’s an indictment of a race, in fact is a problem that has had numerous parties at fault. The American public has given up on a large segment of this population and in turn African Americans have grown bitter and resistant to any intervention, especially by someone who is white. If we look at Hurricane Katrina, this failing was under a great microscope. Two news reports show a stark difference in media coverage of whites and blacks.

Under two very similar photos shown above, we see that while white people are “finding food”, a black person is “looting”. The racism in our society is not as blantant as it was in the 1950’s, it was taken on an underground campaign. If the previous Presidential race has taught us anything, it is that racism is alive and well in America and it shows no signs of slowing, but perhaps growing more and more subtle. Between Bill Clinton’s remarks likening Obama’s win to Jesse Jackson’s in South Carolina to Pat Buchanan saying that white America has lifted up blacks with food stamps and welfare. Of course, Barack Obama is not being called a nigger by a large majority of people and he does not have the KKK standing outside of his house but the remarks I’ve heard about him have bordered on racism or alluded to it.

But unfortunately, there is another side to this issue. There is a trend growing among blacks that throws opportunity away. They have public school, scholarships, grants, and affirmative action in place to help along a society that is skewed towards white people. Yet, there is a segment that still drops out of high school, commits crime at a young age, joins gangs instead of an after-school program. And however young they are, it remains a choice. When young people had a choice in the early sixties of marching and getting a fire house turned on them, or staying at home hoping that it’d change, they’d march. When black women had a choice of walking miles to work or giving in to a corrupt system that forced them to the back of the bus, they walked. The choice then was to fight for equal rights, and so it is today. If a sect of society largely shows that they are unworthy, they will be treated as such. The inner city men that stand on the street corners selling drugs have a choice, however hard, to instead go to a college or seek out better opportunities.

As a result of this, we have the races at a standstill. With a section of white people not giving black people a chance, and in turn the black people not giving themselves one. This is not so different from the situation in the 1950’s. The outward hatred may be gone, but the scars and bitterness remain. What America needs to get past this is another Martin Luther King Jr.

We need a man that lifts up the hopes of African Americans while calling on whites to be the change. He’d call on us all to change the education system in inner cities and “black” schools to give an equal chance to all Americans no matter what color or creed. He’d call on all of us, to not feel pity or hatred for each other but to see an America where your skin color is not a predetermined destiny, but a symbol of pride and individualism. He call on us all to be better, because it’s what we deserve. We need someone to carry on his work, not only to keep African Americans from falling back but to lift them up. I’m not sure how Dr. King would effect us today, which is far different than a generation ago. I’m not sure anyone like him could withstand the scrutiny of today’s media or our ADD personalities but I do know that America needs him now, because I’m not sure we’ll be able to ever do it on our own.

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