More than 140 years ago, slavery was prohibited. Nearly 50 years ago, Brown v. Board of Education called for integration of schools. More than 40 years ago, the civil rights legislation was signed and Martin Luther King Jr. laid claim to a dream of racial equality. Ironically, less than one year ago, Hurricane Katrina forced the world to recognize that race is not equal in America.
A recent Associated Press poll in a USA Today article said “most Americans believe there has been significant progress in achieving Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality; though blacks are more skeptical.” The article quotes an analyst of black issues, David Bositis, saying, “For a big portion of African Americans, there’s not better education … A lot of whites basically say: ‘The civil rights movement has been done. I don’t want to hear about it anymore.'”
However, what is not understood is that to erase the problems the civil rights movement sought to eradicate, the key is to better America’s educational system.
Education brings opportunity, which allows for an individual to obtain a better job and thus gain ownership of homes and private transportation.
Ironically, the majority of the homes in New Orleans that were destroyed were located below sea level, owned by the government and rented by people of color. Most of them did not own any forms of transportation, which drastically limited their abilities to evacuate. A recent report titled “Stalling the Dream” by United for a Fair Economy, a national nonprofit organization, said: “People of color are less likely to own cars than white people. Only 7 percent of white households, but 24 percent of black households and 17 percent of Latino (Hispanic) households owned no vehicle in 2000. In addition, the dollar value of white households’ car ownership is more than twice as great as households of people of color.” The report found that “car ownership provides access to a wider choice of jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, affordable groceries, health care and other ingredients of prosperity.”
Many strides have been made over the years to achieve equality among the citizens of the United States, but based on these findings the dream has not sufficed.
Monday, Jan. 16, marked another year of Martin Luther King’s day of commemoration. On this day, we celebrate a “dream” that America has been relegated to one man, but America has failed to understand that it is shared by many.
Have we allowed the dream of equality to die with Dr. King? Will millions of people one day watch the terrors of another Katrina? I hope not, but America’s failure to sustain the “dream” beyond Dr. King’s death will certainly set America up for another Katrina-like failure.
Diona Fay Howard can be reached at email@example.com.