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Dr. King’s fight for economic justice is far from overNYHTC - January 21, 2013
"History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them."
Martin Luther King Jr.
For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the fight for civil rights and racial equality in America was inexorably tied to the fight for economic justice. On the day he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, Dr. King had traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to support the city's striking sanitation workers. Most of the sanitation workers were African Americans fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions. Dr. King walked the picket line with these workers and brought national attention to their struggle.
King's support of unions and organizing working Americans- white and black- has been excluded from the narrative of his life and legacy. King's solidarity was, and is still, even today, a threat to the power structure that lets the rich get richer as working people get poorer.
If we want to really honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we will start telling our children that not just the fight for racial equality, but also the fight for economic justice is far from over. In fact, economic inequality is actually increasing. Since 1988, the median net worth of a white American family has increase by 39%, while the median net worth of an African American family has decreased by 36%. Unemployment rates are much higher among African American men than among white American men. And perhaps most disturbingly, the number of African American men behind bars rose 700% between 1970 and 2005. Our right to live as free citizens in this country is far from won, and we must continue to fight for economic and racial justice, drawing on the inspiration of our fallen heroes.
Kavoussi, Bonnie. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream Of Economic Equality Still Not A Reality. Huffington Post. January 21, 2013.