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Reflections on Race, 50 Years After MLK
Apr 3, 2018 at 11:58 PM
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The Quick Facts

Fifty years ago, on April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the 2nd-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King, a legendary civil rights icon and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was in Memphis to support the city's striking sanitation workers.

The night before his assassination, King gave a speech where he famously declared, "And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."

Across the nation, Americans are reflecting on King's legacy, the current state of race relations, and our nation's journey towards the "Promised Land."

Food For Thought

How should we think about Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy 50 years after his assassination? Are U.S. race relations today better, worse, or the same as race relations in 1968?

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Time

Why Getting Into Trouble is Necessary to Make Change

Rep. John Lewis
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Reader Highlights

This commentary from Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a famous civil rights leader, was selected as an optimistic view because it expressed these types of sentiments:

  • People who claim that nothing has changed in the last 50 or 60 years should "come and walk in [Lewis's] shoes."
  • Growing up in Alabama, [Lewis] saw constant reminders of the Klan's power. Back in the 50s in the South, most African-Americans could not even participate in the democratic process. That's changed. Despite setbacks and interruptions, our country is in a much better place today.
  • Today, Americans must continue to live out MLK's legacy. Getting in "good trouble, necessary trouble" can drive positive change. There is cause for optimism because activists today will help to make future generations even less conscious of race.

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Tampa Bay Times

It’s up to you to live up to King’s ideal of America

Reader Highlights

This editorial in the Tampa Bay Times offers a moderately optimistic reflection on MLK's legacy. Here are some of the types of points it made:

  • There's no doubt that today, African-Americans have far more opportunities than they did back in the sixties. However, racial discrimination is still highly prevalent.
  • Today, there are two versions of America. Successful African-Americans are breaking through ceilings in business, arts and entertainment and are judged by their achievements, not their race. However, far too many black families are still "disproportionately pooled in crumbling inner cities" with little hope for social mobility.
  • Ironically, the election of Donald Trump has reignited our nation's conversation on race. Perhaps this will encourage Americans to live out MLK's vision and continue the fight for justice and equal treatment for all.

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The Buffalo News

50 years after Martin Luther King's death, blacks have yet to overcome

Reader Highlights

This opinion from Rod Watson in the Buffalo News expresses a moderately pessimistic view of America's current race relations. Here are some of the types of points Watson made:

  • Since 1968, the black middle class has grown significantly and many African-Americans have assumed powerful business and leadership positions.
  • Despite these gains, numbers paint a sad picture: Today, the median household income for blacks is $36K vs. $57K for whites. The black unemployment rate is 2x the white unemployment rate. Systemic racism is still prevalent.
  • MLK's civil rights struggle helped African-Americans gain access to key business and political institutions but did not fundamentally change these institutions. That's the task for today's activists. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is moving things in the opposite direction.

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Missourian

It's been 50 years since King's death and not much has changed

C.W. Dawson
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Reader Highlights

This opinion piece from Rev. C.W. Dawson was selected as a pessimistic view because it included these types of arguments:

  • Today, fifty years after MLK's tragic assassination, America is worse off as a nation. Our racial disparity now is greater than it was at the time of King's death.
  • Back in 1968, America's at least hoped that we could become a united nation that would conquer racism. Today, many African-Americans are stuck wondering whether they will ever overcome.
  • In the face of growing white nationalism, groups are banding together to denounce sexual harassment, to demand gun control, and to fight for better policing. They will face huge obstacles, but at least they are fighting to move towards King's dream of a "united society."

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