By Ken Selvaggi
WAVE 3 Vice President and General Manager
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It is mind numbing to realize that folks now in their 60s went through high school at a time when nearly two-thirds of African-Americans couldn't vote. They also couldn't attend the same schools, use the same public bathrooms, or go to the same restaurants as Caucasian-Americans.
The Rev.Martin Luther King's civil rights leadership, encompassing his historic "I have a Dream Speech" 50 years ago this month in Washington, D.C. in front of a quarter of a million people live and millions more on television, helped change that, but his dream of judging people based on the "content of character" instead of color of skin, dissolving ghettos and uplifting the poor remain a dream still for many.
There will be another Washington march in a few days and an African-American President will be the featured speaker. On some levels, much has changed, but integrating our country and extending rights to all only partially tells the story of the reality of where we stand today.
African-Americans nearly double the national average in lacking jobs and living in poverty.
About 25 percent of African- American families live below the poverty line – but that is better than the 41 percent in the mid-1960s.
They make up 37 percent of the prison population despite making up just 14 percent of the total population.
King's passionate plea that opportunity and freedom are ideals for all Americans rings as true now as it ever has, and his push for better jobs, education, housing and health care for all is as urgent now as it was 50 years ago.
Sorely needed now is more strong, inspirational leaders who challenge the status quo forcefully, and are unafraid to speak up, be heard, and affect change.
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