“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it…”—–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for racial equality and an end to discrimination from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. In his “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. King wrote, “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character….”.
Dr. King inspired millions across the world with the delivery of his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The monumental event and the organizing that followed helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act – legislation that helped reshape our country and the economy.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. Dr. King opened his speech by saying “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” But in the words of Dr. King on that historic day 50 years ago, “…1963 is not the end, but a beginning…” Enormous strides have been made but much work remains to be done to actualize Dr. King’s dream.
We saw the end of Jim Crow. We have seen African Americans, Latinos, women, and others gain access to jobs and education they were previously denied. In 1963, 42 percent of African Americans lived below the poverty line. In 2011,the percentage African Americans that lived below the poverty line dropped to 27 percent. But we are NOT done yet.
In 2014, there is a growing gap of inequality in this country. In 1963, the unemployment rate for black Americans was 10.9 percent; for whites, it was 5 percent. Today, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 14 percent; for whites, it is 6.6 percent. With that being said, more African Americans are unemployed today than they were when Rev. King issued his clarion call for jobs and justice.
While Black unemployment remains disproportionately high, the right-wing legislators are readying themselves to fight for more cuts to the social safety net when Congress resumes next month. And, despite evidence of widespread, coordinated attacks on voter freedom, two months ago the US Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act, the signature achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. As previously stated, though we have come a long way, we still have so much work left to do. These modern injustices demand a modern approach to racial justice organizing.
As Congress debates the federal budget and whether or not to raise the minimum wage, we need to make sure they are doing all they can to create jobs and grow the middle class. EVERYONE deserves an opportunity to succeed.
This year, make your greatest demonstration of freedom—- your vote. Take action that can and will change the future. If you are not already registered, get registered to vote. Seize the opportunity to cast your vote.
For the past two years, hard won voting rights have been under attack throughout the country. Although court wins in 2012 in the states of Florida, Texas, and Ohio have turned back some of these efforts, other challenges remain and much education and outreach is needed to overcoming the damage that remains from laws enacted precisely for the purpose of making it much harder for millions to register and vote.
As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Each election day, vote and take a friend with you to help them exercise their right to determine the destiny of our nation. Your vote can be decisive, stand up, speak out, be heard— cast your vote! Let freedom ring in 2014.
Sources: CBS News. Christian Science Monitor. Wikipedia. 9-5 Action Alert. 50th Anniversary March on Washington website. FAIR SHARE Action Alert. Brainy Quotes website.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art