On the 52nd Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. Assassination, His Call for Economic Equality for All is Being Revived
In Commemorating the 52nd Anniversary of the Assassination of its co-founder and first leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), has called on the U.S. Government to set aside $250 billion for black-owned businesses.
The civil rights organization also called on Congress, which recently approved a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package to provide emergency aid to Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic, to permanently extend monthly payments to the poor and to pay reparations for descendants of slaves. The coronavirus crisis, SCLC officials say, has highlighted the need for America to right its wrongs when it comes to income inequality, which are linked to disparities in education, health care, housing and access to capital. These life essentials are key components for wealth creation.
“We will circulate a petition that will be delivered to Congress asking for $250 billion for black-owned businesses,” said Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC. “The administration is turning the stimulus money over to banks, but banks are the main reason black Americans can’t get access to wealth and why most black Americans have lost their savings. Black America lost its wealth when the housing market collapsed, and banks played a major role in that collapse.”
Dr. Steele said, “it’s time for restoration.”
“The Covid-19 stimulus package can assist black owned businesses, especially black-owned banks, and our historically black colleges and universities,” he added. “If we get our banks, businesses and institutions healthy, our communities will recover, and we will achieve Dr. King’s dream for racial and economic equality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasassassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968 while in the city advocating for fair wages for striking sanitation workers. Before Dr. King was killed at the age of 39, he had called for the U.S. government to address the injustices in the American economic system which provided government funding to the rich and the poor, but referred to the aid by different names. For the poor, it is called welfare. For the rich, it is called subsidies. To end economic exploitation, Dr. King called for America to redistribute its wealth. He pushed for a guaranteed subsidy for the poor, saying a rich nation like the U.S. should not have citizens living in poverty.
“The U.S. Government response to the Coronavirus is a start, but the virus has made it clear that we are all tied to our nation’s survival and revival,” Dr. Steele said. “The only way for America to move forward as a stronger nation is for Congress to act on additional financial measures to ensure that poor and working-class families have the financial means to prosper. We need a permanent stimulus package, not a temporary one that is a band aid approach to our financial problems. The $1200 check won’t cut it for poor folks. You can’t pay your bills and get out of this slump with that check.”
Dr. King believed in self-help, but he also believed in the government partnering with citizens to help them get on track economically, Dr. Steele said.
“The $1200 that the current administration is talking about giving to citizens is a slap in the face,” Dr. Steele said. “That is not a salary for folks who have lost their jobs. The money the government is giving is just pocket change. Poor folks need checks until they reach the next rung of the economic ladder.”
And descendants of slaves, Dr. Steele added, need reparations, because the remnants of that era still exist today where blacks face racism in every arena in society. Reparations can address some of the past injustices, persistent disparities and redistribute some of the wealth.
“Dr. King was a visionary and global leader,” Dr. Steele said. “He called for the government to take care of the people 52 years ago. It is taking the Coronavirus for us to see how we are all connected and linked to each other’s survival. And we see this not only in America but around the world. Dr. King’s vision was not destroyed. It was delayed, but the moment to fulfill that vision is in our hands. The SCLC is going to keep the issues and his dream front and center.”