What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Say To African Americans Today?

by Raheem Karim
Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr

A Half a century after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination what would he say to African Americans?

Martin Luther King Jr. is a Civil Rights icon we celebrate every January for his major contributions to American society. For some we think of Martin Luther King and Civil Rights as movement in the past. For others we sit back and examine how far African Americans have come since death.

King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest. By drawing nation-wide attention to segregation, King became a core organizer, one of the “Big Six”, of the famous 1963 March on Washington. The March on Washington helped bring about landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work.

Before his assassination in1968 King focused more on poverty and the economic disadvantages African Americans endured with his Poor Peoples Campaign. Unfortunately he was unable to see it come into fruition.

How have African Americans progressed since King’s death?

In 1968, 25 million Americans — roughly 13 percent of the population —lived below poverty level. In 2019, the poverty rate was 10.5 percent in the U.S. Black Americans are the ethnic group with the most people living in poverty in 2019, with about 18.8 percent of the Black population with an income below the poverty line. In comparison to that, only 7.3 percent of the White (non-Hispanic) population, were living below the poverty line in 2019. These numbers are pre COVID 19 pandemic, so I am sure they are higher.

Black Americans today are also more dependent on government aid than they were in 1968. About 40% of African-Americans are poor enough to qualify forwelfare, housing assistance and other government programs.

Although unemployment rates have fallen since they spiked at nearly 20 percent for African-Americans (compared to nearly 10 percent for whites) in 1983, a significant gap in joblessness between the two groups remains.

Large disparities in police brutality

According to the Washington Post, an analysis of 4,653 fatal shootings for which information about both race and age were available, the researchers found a small but statistically significant decline in white deaths (about 1%) but no significant change in deaths for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color). There were 5,367 fatal police shootings during that five-year period, according to the Post’s database. In the case of armed victims, Native Americans were killed by police at a rate three times that of white people (77 total killed). Black people were killed at 2.6 times the rate of white people (1,265 total killed); and Hispanics were killed at nearly 1.3 times the rate of white people (889 total killed). Among unarmed victims, Black people were killed at three times the rate (218 total killed), and Hispanics at 1.45 times the rate of white people (146 total killed).

Positive Trends

Civil Rights Movement created new opportunities for all minorities and females beginning in the 1960’s. Major industry sectors, became more diverse through Affirmative Action, and Equal Opportunity laws. The skill sets of African Americans transformed into managerial and executive expertise by the early 1980’s.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. was formed in May, 1993, with 13 local chapters. At the time, according to the US Census Bureau, there were 300,000+ Black owned businesses doing $33 billion in annual sales. Today, according to the US Census Bureau, Black businesses are more than 1.5 million strong with sales exceeding $88 billion. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, Black consumers have buying power after taxes of nearly $1 trillion. Economically, African Americans are the fastest growing economic segment of American society.

Black adults experienced a more significant income increase from 1980 to 2016 –from $28,667 to $39,490.

What would MLK Tell African Americans Today?

Dr. King believed in creating a stable middle class and economic equality for African Americans. I believe in order for us to achieve this to use our power to vote to put people in office that shared our goals.

King would also emphasize education, if he/she becomes knowledgeable they must pass that knowledge down to others. The numbers support the more educated you are a persons income increases.

The next goal he would recommend is build and support minority owned businesses within the community. Supporting black owned businesses creates jobs and opportunities to serve as a bridge where low-income families can move up to middle-class status.

Most importantly keep knocking down racial barriers in sectors of life.

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