Like a good liberal, I woke up this morning listening to NPR. There was a piece about Clarence B. Jones, one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington that is being commemorated this week. He echoed one of the persistent themes that, while there has been much progress over the past 50 years, there is much to "the Dream" that is as yet unfulfilled. The reporter states: "From his book 'Behind the Dream', Jones writes as long as there's a need for a legal category for hate crimes, police officers 'pulling over African Americans because they're driving cars considered out of their financial reach,' and people 'selling their houses because too many black families have moved in,' the dream remains diluted, tarnished and unfulfilled."
Now, I would never deny that these are certainly true and important, but I do see these as largely middle and upper-class issues that ignore the deeper economic injustices that are playing out. As long as we dance around the fact that the overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers of people in prisons, unemployed, in underfunded schools, and with higher rates of poor health indicators are people of color (including Native Americans), and as long as poor people across the board have unequal access to opportunities as well as protections, the dream is unfulfilled. And as long as people like Jones and entities like NPR neglect these facts, the dream will remain unfulfilled.
I see the injustice in the wealthy corporate executive who is either a black man or a woman and receiving less than his/her white male counterpart, but it's at the other end of the economic spectrum that we need to be serious about if we are to break the cycle. It's great to have models of success to break stereotypes, but if we don't address the education and nutrition issues. It's great to ride my bike by the White House - as I was yesterday - and see all the black leaders getting out to attend a function. But to also attend a regular breakfast as I did yesterday morning, consisting mostly of poor black people who seem to be left out of the Dream, reminds me of the real work to be done.