So, you’re marching in Selma today for the star-studded 50th anniversary of the beating Martin Luther King Jr’s followers took as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge.
I don’t fault you for attempting to connect with what I also see as an important part of American history, but while you march today in one of the poorest counties situated in one of the poorest states in America—as well as walk across the same bridge named after a pro-slavery, Confederate general who served as Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan—ask yourself, “What’s the next move? How much has changed since Bloody Sunday? Should there be an agenda for real change?”
Alabama is rife with problems of economic and social inequality. Poverty is a way of life for one out of every six Alabama residents. A recent study reports a mind-blowing stat for the city of Selma’s poverty rate: over 35%. Nearly 60 percent of Selma’s children live below the poverty line.
The Black farmers of Selma—people who used their resources to support MLK and his followers during the Civil Rights Movement—are having financial nightmares, which are worsened by the farmers’ older age.
The current situation in Selma is so bad that I imagine MLK would deliver an earful to the current leaders and politicians who took part in the events today.
And…your plans for today’s festivities are…to do what…?
More broadly, the racial disparities which remain unchanged in America are disturbing. There have been no material changes in the unemployment, income and wealth gaps between Black and White Americans during the past 50 years. This time window includes Democrat and Republican presidential administrations, as well as six of President Obama’s eight elected years in office. No Congress from either side of the aisle has done much to move the inequality metrics. Spin the bad news any way you want but the stats don’t lie.
When MLK delivered his 1963 I Have a Dream speech during the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, one of the event’s organizers, presented a list of demands which included an increase in the minimum wage to $2 an hour. That would be more than $15 an hour in 2015 terms.
Think about the current fight in Congress over minimum wage laws and ask yourself again—what will you do after your party in Selma today?
Let’s say you live in Chicago and bought a $1,000 last-minute round trip airline ticket to Montgomery Regional Airport. How many of you gave $1,000 in cash or sweat to help save a poor, Chicago kid’s life? How many of you even thought about making a similar gesture to the kids of Selma? Did spending similar resources toward a policy change come to mind?
Song currently stuck in my head: “when the sun comes out” – cal tjader