Our paper is a weekly publication, so it often happens that what we write today, and what will show up online tomorrow or the next day, will by then be several days “old,” although hardly passe or not worth publishing.
I woke up this morning realizing that it was Martin Luther King Day and spent a little time musing over the amazing legacy he left us in the short time he was able to make himself heard.
There may well be others all around us that could contribute to the betterment of the world, if not just the betterment of this country, but somehow their voices get lost in the shuffle, or are never heard in the first place. Thank goodness many of King’s speeches were wholly recorded or at least preserved in the written word for other
generations to hear or read to get a sense of what this man believed in and was non-violently fighting for.
Following is an excerpt from one of his speeches made 50 years ago:
DON’T SLEEP THROUGH THE REVOLUTION
1966 Address to the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly Excerpt follows:
A second myth that we must deal with is that of exaggerated progress. Certainly we have made progress in race relations. And I think we can all glory that things are better today than they were ten years ago or even three years ago. We should be proud of the steps we’ve made to rid our nation of this great evil of racial segregation and discrimination. On the other hand, we must realize the plant of freedom is only a bud and not yet a flower. The Negro is freer in 1966, but he is not yet free. The Negro knows more dignity today than he has known in any period of his history in this country, but he is not yet equal. There still are stubborn, difficult problems to deal with all over the country. I’m appalled that some people feel that the civil rights struggle is over because we have a 1964 civil rights bill with ten titles and a voting rights bill. Over and over again people ask, what else do you want? They feel that everything is all right.
Well, let them look around our big cities. I can mention one where we’re working now, not to say that it’s the worst city in the United States, but just to reveal the problem that we face.
Take a city like Chicago; it’s a prototype of all our major urban ghettos. There we find that 90 per cent of the Negro children of Chicago are in school with 92 per cent children of their own race, which means that the schools are almost 100 per cent segregated.
Facilities are inadequate in all of the ghetto schools. Chicago spends approximately $266 per pupil in the predominantly Negro schools, when $368 are spent in the predominantly white schools. In the suburbs it
spends as much as $780 per pupil. This is a very real problem. Then in the area of housing it is estimated that between 36 and 49 per cent of the Negro families of Chicago live in deteriorated housing conditions.
Ninety seven per cent of the Negro families of Chicago live in what we refer to sociologically as the ghetto, that is 97 per cent of the Negroes live only with Negroes. They are isolated from the mainstream, the total life of the community. In the economic area, the problem is even more serious. Chicago has one of the lowest rates of unemployment of any major city in the United States. It’s 2.6 per cent, but when you go to the Negro community, the unemployment rate, which includes only People who once had jobs, is about 10 per cent. If you include
those who have never held jobs, about 13 per cent of the Negro labor force is unemployed. If the whole of Chicago confronted in unemployment what the Negro is confronting there would be a staggering depression, worse than any this country has ever known. So the Negro in his own life is confronting a major depression.
This is true of every major city in the United States. While there is great affluence all around there still stubborn depths of poverty, deprivation and despair. The average white high school dropout in Chicago earns more than the average Negro college graduate. Again, this is true in cities all over the country. These are stubborn,
difficult problems, and yet they are problems that must be tackled, for I need not remind you of the dangers inherent therein. There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of individuals within that society who feel that they have no stake in it, who feel that they have nothing to lose. These are the people who
will riot, these are the people who will turn their ears from pleas for non-violence. For the health of our nation, these problems must be solved. In the areas of housing, schooling, and employment there is still a great deal that must be done. We’ve come a long, long way; we still have a long, long way to go and action programs are necessary.
I’ve heard it said that the day of demonstrations is over; this is something that we hear a great deal. Well, I’m sorry that I can’t agree with that. I wish that I could say the day of demonstrations is over, but as long as these problems are with us, it will be necessary to demonstrate in order to call attention to them. I’m not saying that a demonstration is going to solve the problem of poverty, the problem of housing, the problems that we face in the schools. It’s going to take something much more than a demonstration, but at least the demonstration calls attention to it; at least the demonstration creates a kind of constructive crisis that causes a community to see
the problem and causes a community to begin moving toward the point of acting on it. The church must support this kind of demonstration. As the days unfold, I’m sure that we will need this more.
Who can’t see the truth and urgency in his words? Sometimes it seems that the politicians of today have learned little from the past. And if the new batch of presidential contenders do not eventually get around to addressing those problems of the past— even though we’ve made some great strides since then — how can they then go
forward to build on that still broken and crumbling foundation that unfortunately lingers to this day?
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.