The State of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream in 2010

Over 40 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, his
words still speak to the social conditions that so many Americans face.
Our unemployment rate is hovering at 10 percent, and the wealthiest 10
percent of us control over 70 percent of the nation's wealth. Economic
inequality remains a barrier to greater racial equality. The national
commemoration of King's birthday, therefore, is more for reflection
than celebration.

During one of the worst economic crises seen in this country,
black/white economic inequality is still a vast and greatly
under-recognized challenge for this country. Two generations past the
1960s civil rights movement, African Americans make less than 60 cents
on every dollar of income for whites. Their unemployment rate stands at
150 percent of the national average.

As King fought to end this country's racial divisions, he
recognized that economic inequality was as great a barrier to his
vision of a more racially inclusive America as Jim Crow segregation
laws. Many forget that the March on Washington, where King delivered
his famed "I Have a Dream" speech, was actually called the "March on
Washington for Freedom and Jobs." When one of the last great symbols of
political hope, President John F. Kennedy, was in the White House, King
called hundreds of thousands to come to the nation's capital to fight
for an America that would reflect its best values rather than its
greatest fears. "We called our demonstration a campaign for jobs and
income because we felt that the economic question was the most crucial
that black people, and poor people generally, were confronting," he
told Look Magazine in 1968.

In 2010, after the first challenging year of the presidency of
another man who came into office riding a wave of hope, Americans can
honor King's legacy by advancing a contemporary agenda of jobs, wealth
building, and peace.

King and other civil rights leaders advocated progressive
economic reforms with such proposals as the Bill of Rights for the
Disadvantaged and the Freedom Budget of 1966. A new report from United
for a Fair Economy that I co-authored builds on that work by advocating
bold and progressive economic reforms to meet today's challenges.
Reforms proposed in this report, titled "State of the Dream 2010:
," include a major jobs creation program, strong investment in
job training, an equity assessment of federal spending, and returning
the tax system to one where those with the most concentrated wealth
provide greater investment in the public good.

A rededication to King's vision can redirect the United States
back to the path of greater equality, and a stronger economy for the
middle and working classes. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't believe in
the trickle-down philosophy that has run our economy for the past three
decades. Instead, his "liberation theology" analysis called for siding
with and addressing specifically the challenges of the most
disenfranchised to advance society as a whole.

History witnessed this strategy's success with the results of
the civil rights movement of the 1960s. All Americans-women,
immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, the young and the poor-benefited
from the vast social programs and protections that resulted from that
struggle. As the nation continues to heal from an economic and
financial crisis caused by unregulated greed, we'll find racial
inequality unchanged and overall economic inequality at unprecedented
heights. It's time to finally make a unified thrust to bridge racial
and economic inequality.

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