Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Lost American Value.

WPCNR THE BIG EXTRA. News & Comment by John F. Bailey. January 15, 2015:

I wrote this column eleven years ago in 2004. It still stands relevant today, Even more so.

What fascinates me about this column, which I update every year is how little conditions have changed since I wrote it nine years ago.

That fills me with a great melancholy.

Monday morning at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains at 8 AM, the man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is being remembered. It is still not sold out and they are extending the deadline

Heather Miller of the Slater Center writes today:

“For those of you who have already responded, please be reminded that the breakfast will be at the Crowne Plaza this year.  Parking is included.  Bring in your parking ticket and you will be given a parking sticker.
 
For those who missed Monday’s deadline to get in your reservation, not to worry.  We have extended the deadline to Friday at noon.  Come out to celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and hear Rodney Reynolds, Founder of the American Legacy Magazine and Lillian Reynolds, Founder and Executive Director of the Grace Freedom School in Mount Vernon.
 
Email, call, or fax your reservation:  anita@slatercenter.net  (914) 948-6211 (T)  (914) 948-6213 (F)”
I am not that familiar with Dr. King’s life, but I do know that he, like other great men of America who have their days, Dr. King’s name stands for a value that America holds dear — or we like to think we do.

George Washington stands for honesty. 

Abraham Lincoln for freedom

Columbus for discovery,

Dr. King’s name stands for Opportunity.

Let me add to that fairness. Compassion. A willingness to help and recognize wrong.

What would he say if he addressed the group at the Crowne Plaza Monday?

About foreclosures, shamefully low passing grades on achievement tests for persons of color and who do not speak English well,6% unemployment in a “growing” economy? Millions of youths without jobs, and robber baron bankers paying dividends to shareholders made possible by the taxpayers, and seeking to junk the regulations enacted in 2010 in the Dodd-Frank act to stop them from cheating people again? Or the disgrace amendments Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote into the Homeland Security Act that will if passed, ship 600,000 youths out of this country if the Senate does not block it? 

The shameless hatred for not only the first African-American President vilely espoused by politicians, community leaders and commentators who should know better. The fact that 60% of Democrats think it is time for a woman President while only 20% of Republicans think a woman should be President–the party of white men rule strikes again.

Leaders who would be leaders of this country standing for the death penalty; standing for no health care for the uninsured; standing for less regulation of the greediest, most corrupt businesses on earth — banks, finance companies, oil companies and international American corporations who ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for doing so; tax cuts for millionaires while refusing to vote extension of unemployment benefits and the debt ceiling? Local leaders who hire politically connected cronies to six-figure jobs to do minimal “work.”

You know what he’d say, don’t you? I can hear him now. But I cannot because someone shot him in 1968, since then no African-American or Latino-American or white man or woman has stepped for to fill his voice.

When I think of Dr. King, I think of the Selma marches, I think of Birmingham, I think of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he lead the African-American community in demonstrations asking for the right of equal opportunity in America: a seat on a bus wherever they chose; a restaurant or hotel of their choice; the right to apply for a job without being turned down because you were black. Blatant in-your-face-discrimination was publicized by Dr. King and America was shown it was not right. It took fearlessness to do that.

Who today has that fearlessness that Dr. King and his followers showed all of America? “Leaders” so critical of teachers and education, that they want to help by cutting education aid and expenditures, while at the same time giving giveaways to business. Pay pensions to retired educatiors when they take other full-time jobs in education and do not “fix” things. And business leaders so greedy they ask for refunds on their taxes so they can make even more profit.

Where are the black and Latino and white, yes white leaders and journalists of today who will stand up and point these outrages out?

Are there any?

Dr. King would. That cost him his life.

Today, subtle discrimination denying equal opportunity, denying education, exploiting the poor, foreclosing instead of adjusting, and making settlements with rogue banks that make them even more profitable, and guaranteeing less opportunity are the evils that Dr. King, had he lived, would be attacking today.

When I write those sentences I just wrote, it seems incomprehensible to me that someone would deny another person that.

When you think about it, it is an awful situation to think about. In the 47 years since Dr. King was murdered, the nation has come a long way in breaking down the visible barriers of racism based on creed and the color of one’s skin.

Today, though, the language one speaks and where you are from are the prejudices practiced today. And in the last six years of President  Obama’s presidency the edgy, putting down of Mr. Obama because of the color of his skin is sickening and you hear it every day from white members of congress, from congresspeople from the south. It is disgusting.

But the hate and prejudice are out there–espoused daily on talk shows–and anti-race rhetoric being defended? It confounds me. The rhetoric I have heard from both parties the last six months has turned my stomach.

The education establishment continues to favor the English-speaking, the wealthied, and the well-situated.

The White Plains district is 57% Hispanic students. You need more dual language instruction, not less. You need young enthusiastic, bilingual teachers to step in now, as many as possible. Instead, the brain dead tax cap law that the numbers-challenged New York State legislature put in place is going to force cuts like you will not comprehend and it will come at the expense of the younger teachers.

Dr. King would point his finger at every person in that room Monday and say they should be ashamed for sacrificing the futures of those who have no futures unless we help them.

And you know what? That’s who they do not want to help.

There are too many in Washington D.C. who want to throw them out of the country.

We had a County Executive stand up last year at this time and say we had to drop the mandates for pre-school education. Cut state mandates for health care. Cut pensions. And that county executive increased the amount folks had to pay for day care. The same County Executive who never met a political operative who wasn’t a great addition to the county payroll. (And you know who you are.)

Today the barriers to Equal Opportunity are not subtle any more.

The hate of the poor, the non-English speaking is now fashionable and draws cheers in nationally televised debates.

Last fall we learned just how badly education in New York has overstated education achievement with blacks, Hispanics and whites all being equally unprepared at the 9th grade level with the exception of the students whose parents are deeply involved with their children

Barriers still exist: in the classroom. There is reluctance to deliver quality education to the black and Hispanic populations in America today, just as there was twelve years ago.

The only reason there is a concentrated effort to do so are the state achievement tests which show the shame of our education programs for minorities and whites as well. New York admitted its scores on achievement tests the last 10 years were curved way low — meaning that strides in closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities were not strides at all

What would Dr. Martin Luther King say about that education disgrace if he were speaking at the Crowne Plaza Monday morning?

Plenty.

The horror is that locally many school districts (with the exception of Port Chester) knew the curve was low. They knew it.

Efforts to address the achievement gap were overblown. They lied to thousands of concerned minority parents. They would say they did want to alarm them. But they were simply lying. Telling us they were doing a good job when they were doing a lousy job.

I wrote about this for the last 11 years, but no other media did, 

The press ignored the low standards for passing grades. They did not even bother finding out what they were.

On the other hand, there is the perception elsewhere that because your name and skin color are different, you automatically need help and are slow-tracked into remedial classes; the inclusion of the slower (read minority) children in one corner of a classroom so you can deal with the “problem children”

In the last ten years the products of this subtle but unequal educational opportunity have been well documented and given a name: The Achievement Gap. Well we now know the acheivement gap is now an achievement abyss.

The educational establishment invests millions in studies to find solutions to it and they have learned a lot about it. It takes more School District heads to stand up and say like Dr. King, “we simply are not going to educate half the population any more.”

The lagging of minority youth is blamed on the home and family breakdown. Well then you have to bring more attention to the family unit and those youngsters’ home environment, putting the education in there. It’s expensive but if you want to solve the Achievement Gap you have to do that.

The argument that you have to speak English in the schools and learn through English is racial superiority.

Of course you have to learn to speak English, but really, Bilingual education is how we English-speakers learn another language. Port Chester achieved this — and WPCNR pointed this out to the White Plains School Board years ago. Why is this new? (At last we are finally making progress on this issue, thanks to hiring the woman who designed Port Chester’s program).

It is time to stop the subtle prejudice that we do not want non-English speaking children in our towns and schools because they are too hard to educate and will cost us money to do that. They are children, you simply cannot throw  them away because they do not speak English.

This discrimination Dr. Martin Luther King would find hard to take. Ears would be ringing Monday morning.

 He would bristle at lowering standards for minorities, because he would see right through that argument, saying:

“When are you going to raise the standards for my people? Because you don’t have to work any harder at educating them, if you do not raise your expectations for them.”

I think Dr. King would look around today and appreciate how Blacks and Whites, Hispanics and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and other races mingle together in today’s America.

But, if he was alive today he would never let the Republican candidates and the Democratic leadership in Washington get away with the prejudiced stereotyping of the hungry, the poor, America’s illegal residents that I have heard the last year

I think he’d observe we are all becoming more appreciative and respectful of each other– again with concern about the confrontation rhetoric

But, I do not think he would like today’s buzz word :”diversity” and our smugness about our diversity.

He would say that’s nice, but let’s keep our eye on the prize, to borrow the wonderful motto of the White Plains Department of Public Safety, let us treat all with integrity, professionalism, respect, and to that add opportunity.

Now, let’s think how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would handle the present illegal housing situation in White Plains

I believe Dr. Martin Luther King would take organizations in this town that circulate lists of rooming houses (without inspecting them for overcrowding), and call them out, if he were in White Plains today.

He’d stand up there tomorrow morning and read list of homes and distribute it personally to the Mayor and say — clean up this disgrace.

He would march through the homes where the overcrowding is and be arrested with plenty of cameras showing the disgrace of the housing the Uriah Heeps of this town have created.

No one does that here.

Dr. King was not only politically incorrect, but politically uncooperative. ThAT’S WHY HE WAS KILLED.

He’d bring the unsafely housed with him to breakfast Monday morning and introduce them all around to the rich and the powerful and the well-connected and show them the people whom they are treating like cruel political pawns by our leaders on the county and the city level – all over this county — just so political contributers are protected.

Maybe he’d bring some Latin Kings and Bloods with him too. That would be interesting.

He’d read off the certiorari refunds given back corporations that do quite well and filed for them anyway.

He’d ask the illegally housed to tell their stories at his breakfast. He’d prey for compassion from us the wealthy, the powerful and the “decent,” and the respectable to have compassion for the weak, the misdirected, the addicted and disturbed, and the mortgage-ravaged.

He’d bring the foreclosees and those forced out of their homes and those whose mortgages were turned down, and ask those bankers, brokers, and realtors in the audience on the dais and at the tables — how could you not help them out?

He’d ask every banker there to pledge how many mortgages they’d make in the next month, and the next month and so on.

He’d ask White Plains leaders to accept the responsibility of leadership and by reaching out personally to the homeless, the illegally housed, the unemployed youth to provide them meals and, perhaps jobs during the day, to welcome them in to White Plains somehow. To help them make a new start in White Plains in a firehouse, a church, or a vacant hospital. To challenge businesses to weave these persons into the fabric of the downtown, instead of telling them they are not welcome.

He’d challenge us to step up our humanity, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did when no one else would 60 years ago.

He’d shame the two governments, county and city, for not treating the immigrants, the foreclosees, the homeless, the union members with simple human respect and adhering to the constitution, which prohibits you from being jailed for no reason – a policy incredulously being pushed by politicians who should read the constitution just once to reset their minds.

He’d ask White Plains to rise up and forgive the persons with the prison records who have done their time, and find jobs for them and through forgiveness, and respect for them, Melt away the English-challenged persons’ suspicions and resentments. 

And about our gangs:

Dr. Martin Luther King would go out to the streets of White Plains, Greenburgh, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Port Chester, New Rochelle, Peekskill – the cities where gang activity has been reported – and speak to them about where they are going. It is difficult to say Dr. King would say to the gang members of our area.

But he would be in their faces.

But, I assure you he’d be in their midst confronting this problem and admitting it exists.

As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Monday. Ask ourselves what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would think of the way we have treated the less fortunate? What he would think about how we have “reached out?”

Would he approve of the way we are working with our youth, our Hispanic population, about how dollars are being used to make unsafe housing safe and why it cannot be policed better, about how dollars are being spent in school districts whether on educating people or creating buildings or stadiums; how dollars are being spent by organizations supposedly helping the afflicted, and how they are really doing, and what are they doing with the dollars.

He’d excoriate the variable and below prime mortages now being foreclosed as a new form of financial redlining invented by the financial establishment to exploit. He’d ridicule the efforts of the government to “save” gazillion-dollar financial institutions while allowing homeowners to lose their houses.

He’d shame the banks now refusing to give mortgages to many. He’d point out the hypocrisy of holding students to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, while giving away money to Wall Street, the banks, and oil companies

He’d save particular scorn for the bloated banks paying dividends to shareholders while foreclosing on persons who have lost their jobs. Where is the outcry of leaders of any stripe today on THAT outrage?

Would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. approve?

He’d remind us that Jesus Christ chose to minister to the “hardcore” of his time. He went into their midst. He healed them and made them fishers of men.

The way to honor Dr. King Monday is to honor the afflicted, help the troubled with dignity, not humiliate them, not shun them, not “throw  them out.”

The way Dr. King would view our world today? He’d observe that “we need work.”

That the lynchings and the shutting of school doors are gone, but the attitudes remain.

He’d point that out with his long finger pointing right at us.

He’d say, “I still have a dream.”

He’d be pointing his finger at the double-standard of justice for the minority youth and the wealthy institutions that exists today.

He’d be calling upon all to keep our eyes on the prize and not on the power, the prestige, and the people who would steer us away from what needs to be done.

We need to make the comfortable uncomfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

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