“God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story"
Tomorrow, as we officially mark Martin Luther King Day, it is appropriate that we reflect on our great country and the progress made on civil rights.
It is true that things have come far since the days of Birmingham, Ala., images of which still haunt this nation. Acknowledging that progress is dangerous for there is still far to go.
Dr. King wrote of the dangers of acceptance and passivity in "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story." A quiet peace does not make things right nor just. We must push to do better. Saying that things have improved suggests that things are OK. They are not.
We note the deplorable lack of voting places in Dodge City a little more than a year ago. The effort smacked of voter suppression by making it difficult for the community’s majority Hispanic citizenry to cast ballots. The clerk defended having one voting location for more than 13,000 people as necessary due to a lack of bilingual volunteers. Other communities had poll location averaging a mere 1,200. We found it convenient that the location selected had no access to public transportation.
A new Washington Post-Ipsos poll released Friday said almost two-thirds of black Americans say it is a bad time to be black in America. Four of five felt our president is racist.
The U.S. Census said the average white household earned 60% more than the average black household and 30% than their Hispanic counterparts in 2018. The net worth gap is even larger. Largely due to home ownership, the Census said in 2016 that an average black family is worth 9% of a white one. An Hispanic one has 15% the value of a white one.
Last spring, this paper examined progress made in Kansas schools in the 65 years since the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. We noted the racial makeup of our faculties isn’t representative of the student population. Students in one central Kansas district are 38% minority, but 97% of their teachers are white.
And that district isn’t alone. The National Educators Association says only 16% of our nation’s teachers are people of color. We found school suspensions are issued at a significantly higher rate to minority youths than their white counterparts. A national organization noted that nonwhite school districts receive significantly less funding than white districts in our country.
Clearly, there is work to be done.
A popular King quote: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Today’s racial rhetoric is muted compared to that of King’s era, but that shouldn’t imply that we have arrived.
We must not remain passive. We must not decide that progress is enough.
We must keep fighting until each of us have the same opportunities.