competitors are investing in education, we are simply divesting. It is almost as if we have made a decision to devolve into a developing country.
What would Dr. King say about all this? I think he’d be outside with the folks from Occupy Wall Street, and I think he’d be directing them to a 21st century version of the Poor People’s Campaign. I think he’d be standing outside some of the banks, asking why they deserve the bailouts that ordinary people can’t get. Just as he occupied a housing project in Chicago, I bet he’d camp out with a family experiencing foreclosure. I know he’d be challenging us all.
There have been significant changes since Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, and the signs don’t say White or colored any more. The signs don’t have to say it – in some instances outcomes do. In other words, there are no signs on dollars that say White or colored, but African-American people have pennies to the dollars of wealth that whites hold. There are no signs that say White or colored on executive employment, but you can count the African-American CEOs in Fortune 500 companies on one, or on a good day, maybe two hands. The signs don’t say segregation, but too many still experience it, and while few in polite company use racist expletives to describe people of African descent in this country, when a talk show host and a congressman have the utter temerity to describe the first lady’s body in disparaging terms, it takes me back two centuries, to echoes of the Hottentot Venus, Sarah Bartjee.
The dream is certainly a work in progress, but the dream won’t work unless we do. We cannot afford to be smug, glib or complacent. The UFE report suggests that if we don’t act now, it will get worse later.
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.