Dear Martin Luther King Jr.,
It has been 53 years since you were put in Birmingham jail and I wanted to thank you for your amazing leadership in the Civil Rights movement. Your message in the letter has resonated for decades and has helped advance equality for all. Since then, many of your hopes have been realized; Racial discrimination was prohibited in the workplace, congress passed equal voting rights, and most importantly, America elected its first Black President.
Although racism is less blatant today, unfortunately it still exists as an institutionalized problem. The general image of the black community as a constructive part of our society is still low, and therefore that image becomes apparent in our schools, justice system, and workforce. The average income gap between white and African Americans is increasing, and now racism is used as an excuse by the black community to justify this continuing gap.
All of the above can be seen by a census taken in 2016. Sadly, around 84 percent of African Americans say police treat them unfairly, 66 percent claim unfair treatment during applications for mortgages/loans, 74 percent report courts (judges) biased opinion, and 64 percent complain about how they are treated in their jobs.
Additionally, from the period of 1967 to 2014, the difference in the average income of blacks has not increased nearly as much as that of whites. In fact, the gap between the average income between them has only increased since 1967. So it is not surprising to hear that 43 percent of African Americans say nothing will change regardless of efforts to counter racism.
How could this be possible?
Although we live in different times, we still encounter the same problems that you faced. You lived in a world where racism was not fully recognized as a significant issue that needed to change. One of your biggest struggles was to get the word out to the public about the discrimination your community was facing. It is ironic that with today’s technological advances and the abundance of forms of communication we still struggle to get the word out.
Another one of your struggles was containing the anger your community had. You preached in front of thousands and emphasized violence is not the answer. Unfortunately, in response to discrimination against African Americans today, there have been violent riots and demonstrations throughout America. It is clear that we need your words today just as much as we needed them then.
The key is to never give up and to continue putting the word out. In order to make America change, non-violent actions must take place. The conversation about racism needs to happen on a daily basis in a diverse set of communities. Change will happen slowly but the one constant we need to keep in mind is for our communities to never give up.
Resources: “On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart,” Pew Research Center on Social Demographic changes, June 27, 2016, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/on-views-of-race-and-inequality-blacks-and-whites-are-worlds-apart/