Monday, January 17, 2011

In Contemplation of Dr. Martin Luther King

My family lived through the civil rights era. So I have a very strong attachment to everything that Dr. Martin Luther King achieved for African Americans and every other single U.S. citizens who has not had equality.

We have always believed strongly in the civil rights of every human being, and it is a part of my blood. My stepfather, Stefan Sharff was a filmmaker: he made a pivotal film about Dr. King's third 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for voting equality.

Today Dr. King's speeches have been on the radio all day, and 25 years after his death, his words still bring tears to my eyes. He realized that he was being targeted when he said in  his famous speech the day before his assassination in Memphis, TN,  "I don't mind, because I have been to the top of the mountain, and I have seen the promised land...I am not worried, my eyes have seen the coming of the Lord." His words were powerful, and one can see, even today how his words would be scary to a racist white person.

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friend, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. ...I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live up to the meaning of its creed....All men are created equal."

But even today, the promised land has not been realized.

Two things have not changed enough in this country since the murder of one of the greatest civil rights leaders this country has ever known: crazy losers like Jared Loughner and James Earl Ray are still able to buy guns easily, and African Americans still have not achieved the power and equality that they deserve as human beings.

Dr. King making his famous promised land speech the night before he was killed.  

Yes, we do have a president who is part African American. But the effects of covert and overt racism continue to exist, against African Americans, people of Hispanic origin, and against anyone of color, not to mention people of different religions.

Let me add to that, women who are also not considered equal in this society, except when it comes to doing more than our fair share of housework, raising children, voting and paying taxes. We are still not paid as much or given the same weight as men in society.

Pic: Dr. King leading the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that employment disparities still exist between whites and blacks. In the current recession, the unemployment rate for whites has averaged 5.5%, for blacks, 9.9%. That rate is worse for black men who continue to find racism in the white-dominated work place.

What's worse, as African American children grow up, 45% slide backwards economically, and move to the poorest group as adults, compared with 16% of white children.

More must be done to rid this country of hatred, and importantly to restrict the access to guns. And much, much more needs to be done to improve equality. We have not come far enough.

Listen to Dr. King's speech in full, thanks to Barbara Steinberg.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jen. You are some special woman.