Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Thomas Sheffield

This year we acknowledge two pivotal events in American History.  First, we observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  Next, we observe the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.  President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law.  It prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin and sex.  The Act was signed into law during the riots that followed Dr. King’s assassination.  The question is, have things gotten better or worse?  Did we arrive at a just nation that is better for all Americans?  Is the playing field level or are there more obstacles to overcome?  In some cases, the people in our community are worse off today than before the laws barring housing and voting discrimination.

Let’s look at some stats.  7.5% of African Americans were unemployed in 2017 compared to 6.7% in 1968.  African Americans are 6.4 times more likely than whites to be jailed or imprisoned compared to 5.4 times more likely in 1968.  The home ownership rate is still just over 40% for African Americans which is 30% behind the rate for whites.   The wealth gap between black and white Americans has more than tripled in the past 50 years.  The median net worth for white families is $171,000 or 10 times that of black families.  

This is despite the education gains we have made.  In 1968 54% of blacks graduated from high school while today more than 90% have a high school diploma.  However, the hourly wage for a black worker has grown by .06% a year since 1968.  Black college graduates still make less than white grads.  And African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty than whites.  

I was born after 1968.  I dare say, we as a community are little or no better off than we were 50 years ago, and this is maddening.  What are we going to do about it?  I have three ways we can help to make gains and our communities more sustainable.  First, make sure your voice is heard and vote.  The three stages of voting are registration, education and participation.  Everyone in your family 18 years and older should be registered.  Second, make necessary arrangements to purchase property.  There are many advantages to home ownership.  You gain equity, stabilize housing costs, and you can use the investment to make other investments. There are home ownership programs available for you to get help and down payment assistance.  Finally, invest money wisely.  There is money available through most employer retirement plans.  Many companies will match what you invest.  Prepare for tomorrow and stop living just for today.  Wake up and stop wasting money on things you will get no return.  These are ways to close the wealth gap. We must start today.  

If you have questions or want to do more, please contact me at thomsustainableconsulting@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.  #Resist #Wordsactionchange