By Dale Bowling
Today is Martin Luther King Day and as such it is the day that we honor one of America's greatest
Today is also the Inauguration Day celebration for America's first African-American President.
America has come a long way.
I am thrilled that we have a National Holiday commemorating Dr. King and his achievements. (It wasn't that long ago there was debate about whether there should be a National Holiday, can you believe it?)
The last few years however, I have felt a vague unease with MLK Day. Well, not MLK Day itself, but our reaction to it.
The fact that we have this holiday that looks backward at Dr. King's life and work and how much
progress the African-American community has made since his tragic death, Americans sometimes
allow themselves to become too complacent about how far we still need to go.
Some sobering statistics:
On average, African-American families earn less than 60% of what white families earn.
The rate of poverty among Blacks is almost three times that of Whites.
African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as Whites.
African-American males are six times as likely to be in prison than white males.
Now I suppose that some of us in this country are looking for Adam's Smith Invisible Hand of the
Market to eventually fix all this. Personally, I think we've given it enough time. It's time for action to
help fix this problem.
I've heard others lament that the African-American community should fix its own problems, but this is very difficult when there is so much inequality in the system. African-Americans are less likely to go to good schools, less likely to live in secure neighborhoods, less likely to graduate from high school and even if they do, there aren't enough decent jobs for the Black community to substantially improve their lot.
This is not to say there aren't African-American success stories. There are plenty of them. But they
exist as the exception that proves the rule. Success generally comes from a combination of smarts,
hard work and luck, but the deck comes stacked against the Black community from the start.
The answers to the problems facing the Black community aren't easy to solve. But we know where to
start. America needs to invest in its people and communities. Really this is true of all people and all
communities, but none so much as the Black community which America has shortchanged from time
immemorial. If we can create an environment where African-Americans can cultivate their talents and have a place to utilize them, they will do so.
And I know there are people out there who are not particularly motivated by feelings of decency or
fairness or justice, so let me put it also in way they can understand it. This is all in our best interest
First of all, fostering the creativity and productivity of the African-American community would pay big dividends for the American economy.
Secondly, it costs taxpayers way less to properly educate young African-Americans, keep their
neighborhoods safe and help to bring opportunities to them than it does to incarcerate them,
impoverish their families and kick the can down the road for the next generation.
Alleviating the fundamental inequality which African-Americans face is the best way to honor the
legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and realistically the only way to turn Dr. King's Dream into a Reality and build a better, stronger, fairer America in the bargain.