The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 28, 2013

Other Views: Work’s not over

— It’s been 50 years since the historic March on Washington. The march — remembered to this day in large part because of a moving and powerful speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — was a poignant and peaceful call for racial equality and programs to end poverty.

So today, a half-century later, the question is being asked: How much have we progressed from that era, and how much further do we have to go?

The answer, if one is honest, is a mixed bag. Obviously, there have been tremendous gains in the realm of racial equality in this country. That’s particularly true when it comes to the law. Racial segregation is no longer legal. The law is now a tool to promote equality, when in the past it often posed as a barrier.

And it’s no small matter that America now has a black president. Such an occurrence would have been unthinkable in 1963.

But race in America is hardly a problem of the past. Statistically, black Americans continue to lag in virtually all economic data compared to whites. There are also gaps when it comes to education, housing and other areas considered crucial for social and economic well being.

And then there is the matter of crime. Black-on-black violence — particularly among young black men — is an epidemic in this country. It is fueled by the drug trade and a subculture that seemingly rejects the value of education and lawful conduct, and many young blacks find themselves living in a world where gang violence and short life spans are expected.

What’s to blame for this? You can find all sorts of answers, many of them ideologically driven from the left and right. Still, they may have their aspects of truth. In many ways, government programs have lessened the need for community involvement and accountability. Throwing money at a problem does not solve it.

On the other hand, there remains a gulf between the races in America. And so long as problems within black neighborhoods are viewed as something separate from the nation as a whole, they will persist.

Ironically, while President Obama may be well positioned to understand the problems of race in America, he has been unable to do much about it. Obama’s status as the nation’s first black president makes it difficult for him to tackle race matters head-on.

But they need to be tackled in some fashion, and not just by a president. All Americans have a role in issues of race. That means refusing to pretend problems don’t exist or that they are someone else’s responsibility.

It also means rejecting those of various colors and political persuasions who find benefit in playing the blame game and avoiding accountability.

The next phase in achieving Martin Luther King’s dream must consist of a positive and constructive racial engagement in America. It will be achieved with honesty and humility, not finger-pointing and denial.

— New Castle (Pa.) News

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