This week the March on Washington was remembered as the spark that ignited the Voting Rights Act and placed the Civil Rights Movement front and center in the minds of the American people. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most visible African-American leader of his day, exhorted the 250,000 people in attendance and the millions around the country and the world to step forward and demand the same rights and freedoms other people have experienced since the beginning of the Republic.
Dr. King’s message of an integrated America where all people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their hearts is as relevant today as it was all those years ago. His message of unity was not just a message of racial equality for black people; it was an economic message for all people, regardless of their skin colour, who live in poverty.
Poor and lower middle class white people have been used, lied to, and misinformed by powerful people into believing that civil rights gains for black people will hurt whites. When Dr. King spoke, it was to every American who had been let down by a government that served only a small percentage of the population.
The strategy of division has been used for centuries by governments that have perpetrated distrust and hatred among the different ethnic groups who have called America home so their power stays strong. This was carried out with the help of religious leaders and politicians who only cared about their own wealth and power.
America has come along way from 1963 and in those 50 years, John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby and MLK were murdered. Presidents came and went, as did Senate and House leaders, but one thing has not changed: the number of poor or close to poor American workers. In fact, the wealthiest country in the world has increased the number of people living in poverty and millions upon millions of other hard-working Americans live one paycheck away from financial ruin.
In 1963’s March on Washington for Freedom and jobs, one of the goals of the committee organizers was a $2.00 minimum wage. Yet, 50 years later the minimum wage is only $5.25 more. That amounted to $1.05 increase per decade. In that same time period, the top 1% has seen their tax burden fall from 91% in 1963 to the current rate of 38% and since 1970 the top 1% has seen their wealth double from 10% to 20% of the total American pie creating the single largest income inequality between the rich and the middle class of all industrialized nations.
As I listen to the speeches being delivered by President Obama and other leaders from both the African-American community and the white community it struck me that Dr. King’s dream will only become a reality if the poor and the middle class of every racial group come together as one, to fight together as one and turn the tide on the racists and obstructionists who occupy every level of government in america in every state in america.
There are people who occupy many positions of power, who only have one goal and that is the status quo of the have and have-nots. There are many people, who believe all that they can hear about how immigrants, women and African Americas are out to take their jobs, their way of life and their seat at the American table. Those to preach hatred and fear have very little time as America turns into a true multicultural nation. They know their time is limited and that is why they have attacked everything President Obama has proposed from jobs bills to infrastructure legislation. The obstructionists in Washington are those who would rather see the failure of America than use their power for the good of the country. And, much like the secessionists of old, today’s radical white nationalists only care about their own wealth and power, and they certainly do not care about the millions of the poor who live in their communities no matter what their race.