Martin Luther King made great strides for racial equality, and a speech that will always be remembered. We will always be grateful for his accomplishments and sacrifice. My concern is that, while things are better now than they were in the 60’s, some events of the last couple of years have made me wonder if some of Dr. King’s progress is being intentionally eroded.
On June 25, 2013, The Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that Dr. King fought so hard to achieve. Declaring racism officially a thing of the past in America, they decided that voting rights of minorities no longer need protecting. That purely political decision by the conservative judges led to immediate changes in voting laws intentionally designed to make it more difficult for minorities to vote. Texas and other conservative states immediately disenfranchised black voters with stricter ID requirements, racially-gerrymandering districts and blocking grassroots get-out-the-votes efforts. It is safe to say that President Obama would have never been elected under these current laws.
I believe that before, during and after Dr. King’s time, the forces against racial equality have been more motivated by the need to maintain an economic class structure than actual racism itself. They merely promote racism as a tool to divide and maintain the status quo.
This has led to some amount of institutional racism. Lately, it seems justice isn’t even colorblind.
Starting with the stand-your-ground laws and the Trayvon Martin case, more and more unarmed black kids have been killed without convictions. And in several well-known and lesser-known cases, unarmed black men and children have been murdered by police without even an indictment. While the talk white fathers like myself, have to have with their sons, begin and end with the birds and the bees, black fathers sadly have to talk about bullets and batons. I highly doubt that Dr. King would have dreamed that 50 years since his historic Selma to Montgomery march, African American parents would still have to warn their young sons about the dangers of being black. That is what inspired me to paint “The Talk.” It’s time for us to work together to protect Dr. King’s dream and make it a reality.
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