Continuing the legacy of MLK

John Catton, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

This week, we celebrate the life of a truly remarkable American, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, and the struggles of the generations before us to get us here. It’s a time when we remember the stories of everyday men and women of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who contributed to the cause of equality in this county. 

My geat grandfather’s story is no exception. It goes as follows: during a year that no one in my family can quite agree on the KKK came to my great- grandfather’s hometown of Vidalia, Ga. For those who have never been to Vidalia, the railroad track runs straight through the middle of town which back then, was the unofficial segregation line for the white and African American sections of town. His business stood squarely in the African American part of town for good reason: almost all of his workers and customers were African American. 

The KKK came into town in a parade of white hoods and cars. A large group of them decided to go from business to business to tell white business owners that they could not sell products to African Americans or else they had to deal with the Klan. My great grandfather did not take too kindly to that idea. He lived the rest of his life under threat of retaliation from the Klan. 

Our parents and grandparents fought to bring equality. Dr. King’s dream is far from accomplished. 

We are equal on paper but socially we still have a lot of work to do. Despite what the president and other politicians may say, racism is still a problem in America. Ferguson, Charleston and Charlottesville are only the most visible signs of our struggle with race. 

This year, a compressive study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that participants on average found black boys to be older and less innocent of crimes as white boys at the same age. This leads a disparity of arrests among African Americans. A 2013 report by the US Sentencing Commission states black men receive prison sentences at 19.5 longer than white men of similar crimes. 

This negative stigma has ripple effects in employment. According to a 2003 National Burau of Economics Research report, white sounding name alone gets one callback per ten resumes while an African American sounding name gets one callback per 15 resumes. The researchers even stated that “a white name yields as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of experience.” 

Overall this negative stigma toward African Americans leads to large economic disparities that leave African Americans far behind. According to a Demos analysis of 2010 Federal Reserve Data White Americans hold more than 88 percent of the nation’s wealth, while representing 64 percent of the population. Black Americans own 2.3 percent of the nation’s wealth while representing 13 percent of the population. 

We must ask ourselves, how can we call ourselves “a nation of equals” if some races have such obvious natural advantages over others? If this was a footrace, some of us would get more than a head start, we can start at the finish line and that doesn’t sound like the American Dream to me. 

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