MLK’s Dream Still Elusive: Is Faith Enough to Overcome Disparities?

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  • Martin Luther King Jr
    AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
    The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in Washington, D.C., ahead of its dedication next weekend.
By Kris Coombs, Christian Post Contributor
January 13, 2012|6:33 pm

A new report released on Friday by United for a Fair Economy, a national advocacy group working to curb economic disparities, discovered some discouraging projections on the future of race relations in America.

The report focuses on the racial economic divide in the U.S. since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, using the trends of the past 30 years for its projections.

“Increasingly, elderly Americans do not identify with young Americans who are far more racially and ethnically diverse, leading to reductions in future-oriented public investments,” the report said.

In the group’s ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day report, “State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority,” it finds that racial disparities are now increasingly influenced by age.

 “It is alarming that in states where the racial generation gap is widest, such as California where public investments in education, social programs, and transportation made in the 1950s helped to catapult the state into one of the richest in the country, public investments have dwindled, as the elderly do not see themselves reflected in youth of color,” the report said.

But Reverend Jacqueline J. Lewis, Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City said the older generations can learn to work together with the youth of today.

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“I’m so excited the younger generation is not preoccupied with racial divides. In some ways, younger generations can mentor older generations. When you’re blasting out a tweet to your friends, you’re community organizing,” Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post.

Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post that older communities have to take responsibility to harvest and mentor the best and the brightest of young people, particularly the ones coming out of college seeking work.

According to the report, almost 50 percent of today’s U.S. residents under the age of 18 are members of a minority group, while 80 percent of retirees are white. By the year 2030, the majority of U.S. residents under 18 years of age will be a person of color, the report said.

“If current trends continue, the racial wealth gap will continue to be massive, as it is now, and as the non-white share of the population grows it will become unbearable for the economy as a whole,” said one of the report’s authors, Tim Sullivan, to MSNBC.com.

“If for 400 years, people are enslaved in a country, when slavery is abolished, it’s still as though one race has to walk with one leg less than the other (race),” Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post.

The report also found that by 2042, Latinos, blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and other non-whites Americans will collectively make up the majority of the U.S. population.

Civil rights activist and national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, Roy Innis, told MSNBC.com that America has made progress in achieving Dr. King’s dream of a racially harmonious society, citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. However, more needs to be done to eliminate racial and economic inequality, according to Innis.

 “With social and political components well in hand, it is in the hands of minorities to complete the economic component,” Innis told MSNBC.com.

“Having a black president doesn’t cure our racism,” Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post. “I am not hopeless, I am hopeful. We need more than Martin Luther King celebrations.”

Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post that “churches, synagogues and mosques” must all collectively address race.

“Dr. King said ‘11’o clock is still the most segregated hour in America,’” Lewis said, admitting that churches also have had, and still have, a role to play in perpetuating racial divides.

“Churches must stand shoulder to shoulder and be as diverse as they can be,” Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post.

Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center, agrees that the country has made strides in closing racial and economic gaps since Dr. King’s death in 1968, but told MSNBC.com "systemic progress continues to elude us."

In 1967, when King launched the Poor People's Campaign, he said poverty was the second phase of the civil rights movement.

Then, about 13 percent of the general population was living in poverty; today that number is over 15 percent with much higher poverty rates for blacks and Latinos," Brooks said in an email to MSNBC.com. "No, I don't think we're on the right course to correct race-based economic inequities."

“The racial economic divide is a national embarrassment. Eliminating it should be a moral imperative, and as the non-white share of the population grows, it will become an increasingly urgent economic necessity,” United for a Fair Economy said.

“It requires a revolution,” Rev. Lewis told The Christian Post. “It requires mentorship and more people hiring minorities in the workplace.”

 

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