SPECIAL ON MLK PART 1 - Flipbook - Page 5
Our incomes are also way up.
Black adults experienced a more
significant income increase from
1980 to 2016 – from $28,667 to
$39,490 – than any other U.S.
demographic group. This, in
part, is why there’s now a
significant black middle class.
may live in any community they
want – and from Beverly Hills
to the Upper East Side, they can
But why aren’t those gains
deeper and more widespread?
Some prominent thinkers –
including the award-winning
writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and
“The New Jim Crow” author Michelle Alexander – put the onus on institutional racism. Coates argues, among
other things, that racism has so held back African-Americans throughout history that we deserve reparations,
resurfacing a claim with a long history in black activism.
Alexander, for her part, has famously said that racial profiling and the mass incarceration of African-Americans
are just modern-day forms of the legal, institutionalized racism that once ruled across the American South.
More conservative thinkers may hold black people solely accountable for
their problems. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson is
in this “personal responsibility” camp, along with public intellectuals
like Thomas Sowell and Larry Elder.
Depending on who you ask, then, black people aren’t much better off than in
1968 because either there’s not enough government help or there’s too much.
In 1963, 250,000 people marched on Washington to demand equal rights.
By 1968, laws had changed. But social progress has since stalled. United
States Information Agency
What would MLK do?
In 1968, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council sought to
tackle inequality with the Economic Bill of Rights. This was not a legislative
proposal, per se, but a moral vision of a just America where all citizens had
educational opportunities, a home, “access to land,” “a meaningful job at a
living wage” and “a secure and adequate income.”
To achieve that, King wrote, the U.S. government should create an initiative to “abolish unemployment,” by
developing incentives to increase the number of jobs for black Americans. He also recommended “another
program to supplement the income of those whose earnings are below the poverty level.”