Dr. King’s greatest dream is unfulfilled



If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had succeeded, racism, discrimination, poverty, injustice and inequality wouldn’t still boldly assault the nation.

King’s greatest failing was that his dream remains unfulfilled. Picking up where King left off is what people now must do as we celebrate the national holiday commemorating his birthday. He would have been 79 years old.

King was assassinated 40 years ago on April 4 in Memphis. To resuscitate the dream of the drum major for justice, each of us must take action. Some recent reports show that a lot of work needs to be done.

A study by Julia Isaacs with the Brookings Institution found that economic gains lifted many black families into the middle class following the civil rights movement.

Loosing gains

But those gains have actually reversed for their children. The study said “a majority of blacks born to middle-income parents grow up to have less income than their parents.”

“Only 31 percent of black children born to parents in the middle of the income distribution have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children from the same income bracket,” the study notes. “White children are more likely to move up the ladder while black children are more likely to fall down.”

Blame it on tightening affirmative-action programs, a resegregation and diminished quality of education for children of color, family breakups, and discrimination and racism.

The report also said that in 2004 the median family income of blacks age 30 to 39 was $35,000, or 58 percent of the $60,000 for white families in the same age group.

Clearly the middle class of all colors has lost ground as Bush administration tax cuts have made the rich richer. But discrimination and racism stall black progress even more.

King in 1967 helped launch the Poor People’s Campaign to demand jobs, better wages, a good education and other benefits for poor adults and kids of all colors. King would abhor today’s wealth disparities and the shameless military spending.

The top 1 percent of Americans had income increases from 2003 to 2005 that exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of people in this country, The New York Times reported, citing Congressional Budget Office data. People should be outraged.

Stuck at the bottom

King also would be dismayed by a study titled “Job Quality and Black Workers.” Steven C. Pitts with the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California Berkeley found that 56 percent of all black workers are stuck in low-wage jobs.

“The inattention to the crisis of low-wage jobs reflects the invisibility of the black working poor,” the report said.

Shortages turn people on each other.

A poll by New America Media found friction, mistrust and stereotyping among blacks, Asian-Americans, American Indians and Hispanics. King wouldn’t like that conflict. Such ill feelings only keep poor people down.

However, King would be encouraged that the poll said each group was willing to put aside differences and work together to better their communities.

That is what all of us must do to help revive King’s dream.

X Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Kansas City Star’s Editorial Board. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.