Forty-eight years after his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would be furious. His anger would be aimed at right-wingers, in particular the Republican presidential candidates, who, under the guise of limited government, say it’s OK to ignore the racial inequality that continues to plague America today.
The stepping up of racism by the ultra-right over the last 30 years has prevented America from keeping its promises of racial justice and equal opportunity for all.
The cause of the inequality is not, as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney suggest, the failure of African Americans to demand paychecks rather than food stamps.
The cause is not, as Rick Santorum says with such blatant racism, that Black people have become dependent on free handouts rather than being motivated to be high achievers.
The cause, as Campaign for America’s Future columnist Isaiah Poole points out, is the racist and systematic denial of funds to educational institutions that serve Black and Latino youth, re-segregation of the schools, skyrocketing tuition at the nation’s colleges and universities, and, we might add, the entire prison-industrial-criminalization complex.
The cause, as Poole notes, is also the racist and predatory lending and credit policies in predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods that result in the higher foreclosure and bankruptcy rates in those communities.
The cause of disparity today is also the racist attack on immigrant rights. The scapegoating of immigrants hurts everyone in our communities.
In addition, a major cause of inequality today is the weakening of the political rights of minorities. The systematic push by the Republicans for voter ID laws, for example, amounts to nothing less than the elimination of the right to vote for millions of Blacks, Latinos, seniors, youth and poor people.
The cause is the racist failure to invest in economic development and jobs in communities of color across the country, and economic policies that allow the offshoring of manufacturing jobs.
The cause is the racist elimination of public sector jobs.
The cause lies in union-busting. Millions of Blacks and whites have come together at unionized workplaces all over the country. Take those unions away and you strengthen segregation again and reduce the wages and living conditions of everyone.
The cause lies in all the attacks on the economic rights of minorities which are designed to push down the wages not just of the most direct victims of the discrimination but of the entire working population, resulting in higher than ever profits for the 1 percent.
The cause of the disparity today is also the continued mass incarceration of African Americans and the racist laws and policies that deny opportunities to ex-offenders.
Human decency and any semblance of a standard of morals demand a vigorous fight for racial and economic justice.
In addition to moral righteousness, ending racial and economic inequality is in the economic interest of the 99 percent and is the best way to fix our ailing economy.
Allowing the continuation of second-class economic status for people of color drags down the entire economy, hurting everyone. At the same time foreclosure relief, federal aid to states, job creation and union organizing rights not only helps bring black, brown and white into the productive economy but helps build the unity the people need to end discrimination and keep the economy humming.
Taxing the rich, ending the failed and racist “war on drugs,” enacting immigration reform and strengthening the safety net, including Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, are also critical in reducing racial disparities and will, at the same time, improve everyone’s lives.
These are the things Dr. King would be fighting for today. These are the things for which we all must fight if we are going to bring Dr. King’s dream closer to reality.
Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. AP