Sunday, January 15, 2006

Revisiting King's Legacy

Every year journalists and politicians go out of their way to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. While we have come a long way since the 1950s, we are still failing to live up to the many of the aspects of King's Dream of racial equality. Colbert King has some thoughts on what King would say is progress and failures. Bruce Gordon, head of the NAACP, answers some questions that bear relation to King's legacy.

I wrote a review of Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation for Black Ink Book Review that deals with our failures when it comes to education (link needs to be properly formated for the web). As I point out, our failures in education lead to other failures of racial equality:
The consequences of our failed desegregation efforts exploded in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina earlier this year. Images of extreme segregation and disproportionate suffering of impoverished African-Americans in New Orleans filled our television screens and briefly brought to light the current disparities. The images were so sobering that President Bush, on September 15, had to declare to the nation that this
poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.
I agree with Bush that we have a duty to confront this poverty. And confronting this poverty would be something that Dr. King, a personal hero, would sign on to. It's something I'm ready to sign on to. I just wish Bush's words (or faith) on this matter were backed up by his actions (or works)--happy rhetoric is dead without actions.

Sadly, I think we may be headed in the wrong direction in the near future. I briefly point out, in my review of Shame, Kozol's insistence of the importance of federal courts in improving education for minorities. The appointment of Chief Justice Roberts was (I hope I'm wrong), about 30 years of votes against the current inequalities. The confirmation of Judge Alito to the supreme court, would be removing O'Connor's pivotal votes. This is, perhaps, why the NAACP is strongly opposed to the confirmation. And as Nick Kotz points out, there are some important issues that may be coming up before the federal courts.

If we want to discuss King's legacy on his birthday, we should rethink the GOP's strict construction of the courts and have a serious debate. The courts are in for a big change if we continue to let Bush construct the courts as he has been doing. I hope Democrats do some soul searching as they are running around touting King's legacy. King and others fought hard for equality. They didn't win every battle, but they still fought because they believed that it was worth fighting--and even dying--for.

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