Dr. King’s dream

FI-EditorialThe past week was a chance to focus on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and also a chance to ponder a vital question. Where are we in making good on the dream he spoke of?

Is there true equality in the United States of America? It’s impossible to say that there is, not when the economic divide is huge and growing even larger. This was as important a part of the legacy of Dr. King as anything else he spoke of, because he knew there would be true equality only when there was social and economic justice in America.

The divide between the rich and the poor is growing. That’s a fact. Opportunity for many is disappearing and the deck seems stacked toward those who are already starting out with the most. Is that an America Dr. King would be proud of?

Many have written, particularly noted Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson, about how easy it has become to misremember Dr. King’s legacy, especially when so many have twisted his words and his intentions to fit their own points of view. No offense to members of the GOP, but the very idea that Dr. King could have ever been a conservative is simply laughable.

In his life he was decried as a radical and a socialist, someone whose intentions were only to create a race war (any similarities between this and current criticism from the fringe of President Barack Obama is obviously only coincidental, right?) and he was killed challenging the status quo.

Dr. King was murdered while trying to help striking sanitation workers fight for better treatment. In the time leading up to his death, Dr. King had been crusading for better public housing and had called for not just a higher minimum wage but a guaranteed minimum income in America. These fights go on today where many are trying to make a go of it on a minimum wage that isn’t enough to make a living as vital social programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance are slashed in the name of budget balancing.

In the effort of some to paint him as a saint and a cuddly icon of a bygone era, many of the complicating factors of his life have been ignored. His words were seen as dangerous, and this is not some bygone era in America. This is less than 50 years ago, a time in the lifetime of many Americans. To pretend that Dr. King’s dreams have been achieved is ignorant at best and flat out deceitful at worst.

We see the economic issues facing this country all over Connecticut and even here in Greenwich. Last week, we discussed the effort of some in town to bring the basics like warm winter coats and bedsheets to residents who have neither. This effort took place at Wilbur Peck Court, and when you go to Wilbur Peck, all you have to do is look right over the fence and you see nearby fine homes close to the private Milbrook Club.

The haves and have-nots are literally divided by a fence, and it’s more than just a metaphor. It has to change.

Another example is brought up this week in the Post’s letters page, where Samarpana Tamm, a former Democratic candidate for the Board of Education, talks about the awful, overcrowded conditions at New Lebanon School. What goes unsaid in the letter is that this school, like Hamilton Avenue School, is left in racial imbalance, not because of any malicious design by the district but because of the economic reality that there is no affordable housing outside of Western Greenwich.

Economic injustice remains an issue that has been ignored for far too long. Lip service is paid to it at presidential elections, just as people believe that Dr. King’s legacy began and ended with “I have a dream.” It can’t be that way anymore. It has to change, here in Greenwich and across America.

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