Today the United States observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and around the country, people will make assessments abouthow many of Kings dreams for the future have come to pass.
With our first Black president leaving office, it might be easy to assume that his dreams of racial harmony have been largely fulfilled, and for a new generation raised on the sanitized, postage stamp version of King, to believe that his message is pass. However, if we look at King's stance on economic inequality and compare it to the present plight of Black people in America, its clear that his words and work sound a lot like present-day solutions to present-day issues.
Of course, its true that King dreamed of a future where racial harmony reigned and all races worked together in service of the common good. However, he envisioned that harmony existing in an America where there was an equitable distribution of income.
While popular culture romanticizes Kings famous I Have a Dream speech and the footage of Black and white Americans walking hand in hand across the National Mall, it is often forgotten or simply omitted, that the full name of the march where these things took place was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
And when it comes to economic inequality, there is no need to look to history. Its an all too current situation with devastating consequences for those who find themselves on the bottom rung.
According to the last batch of census data released in 2015, the average income of Black households in the US still lags behind all other ethnic groups. For those in the traditional workforce, Black women earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by white women, and overall, Black people snagged the highest poverty level (26.2 percent).
In his final book before his death, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King said, Negroes who have a double disability, will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
Negroes who have a double disability, will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
On April 3, 1968, one day before King was assassinated, he gave his last-ever speech in Memphis where he delivered a message that bears a familiar tone. He urged the Black community there to use their dollars as a tool; calling upon them to move their money to Black banks, stop patronizing racist stores and companies, and buy insurance with Black companies in an effort to build "a great economic base" and put "pressure where it really hurts."
Money may not be a cure-all for the Black community, but, just as King saw it almost 50 years ago, making economic freedom a reality will make true social freedom and harmony a realistic possibility.