Economics MartinLutherKingJr2

Published on January 21st, 2013

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: An Envoy for the Working Poor



As we honor the re-election of President Barack Obama and take a moment to reflect on the life and times of King’s legacy, it’s critical to consider that Dr. King’s message of economic justice is more relevant now than ever before. As we watch the diminishing returns of our nation’s economic structure and we listen to Dr. King’s constant reminder of the hubris and self emphasized capitalistic practices that takes from many and gives to a set few, we wonder has King’s message really prevailed.

Nearly half a century ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Tennessee in support of mistreated sanitation workers demanding enhanced wages and the right to join the unions, which at the time only represented white workers.  As Dr. King walked with those men, regardless of race, who earn a living picking up trash, it reminds us as a nation, that regardless of politics the people do in fact come first.

Princeton Theologian Professor and author of the “Rich and the Rest of Us”, Dr. Cornel West recently expressed his utter disdain for President Obama deciding to use Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. bible, when taking the Oath of Office. West described this act as tainting the spirit of service of Dr. Kings legacy and commitment to service, referring to it as “sanitizing, deodorizing and sterilizing” this for political gain.

At the time, the gap between the wealthy and the working poor has enhanced dramatically since the 1960’s, where the fundamentals of true capitalism have now become tainted by greed. CEO’s of financial empires on Wall Street on average make now 300 times more than the average worker in America.Yet, the amount of access to capital for Black entrepreneurs is less than ever before, an issue that has dramatically affected Black unemployment and the 98 percent of African Americans who voted for President Obama. We have to stop and recognize that the Civil Rights movement was jump started by economics, starting from the bus boycotts of Alabama to the Penny payout boycotts of Harlem, politics and economics have always been synonymous.

Even in the age of President Barack Obama, black males on average are 40percent more likely to be locked up than to graduate from a four year university, and are less likely to have full time employment or start their own business. At a time when the federal government can spend billions on Afghanistan but refuses to implement federal capital to our decrepit inner cities and the 50 million Americans who live in poverty, then we are living opposite of Dr. King’s social justice teachings

While the nation’s poverty rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally is 8.6 percent, 25.1 percent of black families still lived in poverty meaning under the national income status. A December 2009 Pew Center study reported that “blacks were most likely to receive higher-priced sub-prime loans”, and were the highest ethnic group affected by the mortgage crisis resulting in outstanding foreclosure rates. Dr. King knew that the recipe for a free nation was not legislation, but economic justice, where American exceptionalism would always succeed over self integration. The moral of his words help us to further build a new liberty where socio-economic justice really exist and is not merely just a Dream.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Brandon Brice is a graduate of Howard University and is a former graduate of the New Jersey Eagleton Institute of Politics fellow at Rutgers University. Brandon Brice has worked as a policy intern for the former House Speaker Honorable J. Dennis Hastert and is the former Director of Education and African American Affairs for Governor Chris Christie. Brandon served as the He has been featured on C-SPAN’s Road to the White House, C-SPAN,BET’s What’s At Stake, Hot97 with Lisa Evers and Fox News. Follow on Twitter: @IamBrandonBrice

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