In August 1963, the world stood still as one of the greatest orators the world had ever heard, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his I have a Dream Speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
All of us are familiar with the words that he spoke on that day in August. One of the most talked about perceptions is that he had brought people of all race, color, creed and culture together for a common goal. During his birthday weekend, you will hear this speech throughout the day.
As we reflect on this day that celebrates this great African-American man and the only African-American to have a National holiday, let us take a few minutes to ask ourselves this question: “If he were alive today, what do you think he would say about what is going on in America?”
I think the first thing he would say is there is a Crisis in America and not just an American Crisis but there is a Crisis in Black America in relationship to the Dream that he spoke about? Crisis you say? What Crisis? Yes, there is crisis in Black America
1. Crisis in Education:
a. The educational system in the wealthiest country in the world is largely broken.
b. For the clear majority of Black students, the system is dysfunctional and has produced poor results for decades.
c. Once they’re in school, statistics report that the high school graduation rate for Black students is 62 percent, compared with 81 percent for white students. In many large urban districts, it’s even lower.
d. Those who do graduate high school may be ill-prepared to tackle a college-level curriculum or to attend colleges that can prepare them to compete in today’s innovation economy, since Black students have the lowest SAT scores of any racial group, according to the College Board. These stats do not exclude the children of wealthy African-Americans. High-income Black students score lower on average on the SAT than low-income white students.
e. Black students have the lowest likelihood of all racial groups of attending a well-resourced, high-performing school, and the greatest of attending a poorly resourced, low-performing school.
f. Cultural Exclusion-Majority of the teachers do not look like us. Textbooks limited in the inclusion of our culture.
g. Higher suspensions and permanent expulsions especially of Black Males.
h. More Black males in special education classes.
i. SOLs have no relevance to our culture experience. How can you ask an inner-city child about an experience at a large super market if he has only been to the neighborhood store? How can you ask a student about his/her summer vacation if he has never been outside of his neighborhood?
j. It’s been well documented that there are racial disparities in school funding in many states both within and between districts.
k. In poor districts – or sometimes in poor areas of the same district – it isn’t uncommon for school buildings to be in decay; to have insufficient textbooks; and to provide little if any teacher support or investment in academic programming, art programs, science lab equipment, or speech and debate teams.
This education crisis is at the root of many of America’s problems and puts the country at an extreme economic disadvantage globally. An education that doesn’t prepare a child to succeed in college or a career doesn’t just stunt that child’s future – it handicaps our economy.
The total annual economic burden to taxpayers because of educational inequity is $59.2 billion, according to the Schott Foundation. Closing the achievement gap between American students and their peers in higher performing nations could have increased 2008 annual gross domestic product by $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion, or 9 percent to 16 percent, according to a report from McKinsey & Co., the global management consulting firm.
In January 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar served nine days in jail and was sentenced to two years of probation after being convicted of grand theft and two felony counts of falsifying records. Her crime? Sending her children to a school four miles outside her district of residence in Akron, Ohio.
The divorced mother of two says she falsified school documents because she was concerned about the safety of her two young daughters. “I wanted them to stay at my father’s after school,” she says. “I didn’t want my girls going home to an empty apartment that had recently been burglarized.”
She says her decision to enroll her daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn school district wasn’t because the schools her daughters would have attended in 2006 had received a ranking of “Academic Watch,” the state’s second-lowest ranking, in 2008, or because Copley-Fairlawn had merited the state’s top rating, “Excellent with Distinction.”
Yet in this era of achievement gaps, education reform, and education budget cuts, Williams-Bolar’s story caught the attention of people nationwide who either rallied for her acquittal or applauded her punishment. Seemingly overnight she became an unwitting symbol of the nation’s glaring educational inequities, the powerlessness of the poor, and the four-mile chasm that separates “Excellent with Distinction” from “Academic Watch.”
1. Black on Black Crime-more Blacks being killed by Blacks than being killed by the many hate groups. Senseless killings. They have No self-worth. If you don’t value yourself, how can you value the life of someone else.
2. New form of Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration of Black men for nonviolent crimes. They make up less than 7 percent of the population and 40 percent of the prison population. Many are in prison because they cannot afford bond or an attorney.
3. They are chipping away at our voting rights and affirmative action keeps getting weaker. I think Dr. King would say that he still has that dream of equal rights and justice for all and the only difference today is that during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, we were visible and very vocal in asking and making demands for the rights that all Americans should have.
Now all Americans have become lazy and complacent and all the things that King and the other civil rights leaders were fighting for have reared their ugly heads again. With the new occupant of the White House, where we have a man that is preaching exclusion instead of inclusion for all, and people thinking it is acceptable to be racist and non- inclusive, we are going to have to dust off our walking shoes and become more visible and vocal in the demands that we are entitled to.
If he were here now, I think he would say, “Folks, we must get up and back on the battle field and start making demands again. Not only Black Americans but all Americans because when one of us is not whole there is a missing link in the wheel and when there is a link missing the ride is bumpy. The dream has not been achieved but there is hope. We must stop being so complacent and look for things that we can do to ensure that all Americans have equal rights and the same opportunities.”
In closing, here are two quotes from Dr. King:
Love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.”
In a sermon delivered at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on Nov. 17, 1957, King said “the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love” is part of his “basic philosophical and theological orientation.” In the sermon, titled Loving Your Enemies, King says, “it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.”
“We must be concerned about every human being.”
On June 2, 1959, King delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College. His address, titled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, emphasizes the importance of focusing on improving the world for all, not just for ourselves:
“Rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. The individual or nation that feels that it can live in isolation has allowed itself to sleep through a revolution. The geographical togetherness of the modern world makes our very existence dependent on co-existence.
“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. Because of our involvement in humanity we must be concerned about every human being.”
Most of all, we should always remember John 3-16
“For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Note, it says “world,” not “Black world, white world or any other separate world.” Keeping this in mind, know God loves us all the same and He is always in control.
So what’s love got to do with it? If we love everybody and are genuinely concerned about each other, this world would be a better place
This presentation was given at a program of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) and submitted by Audrey P. Williams, President, Hampton Roads Branch ASALH.