It is my belief that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King would be both pleased and profoundly sad about the current state of African Americans. He would certainly be immensely glad that President Obama is the first African American president. He’d be happy with the sizeable number of African Americans who have moved into the middle class and even some who are fabulously wealthy such as Oprah Winfrey. Additionally, he’d be happy with the number of black elected officials. Overall, I believe he would be pleased with the progress of African Americans.
Nevertheless, Dr. King would be deeply unhappy with some nagging and chronic signs that suggest many African Americans are not experiencing the American dream. They are experiencing the American nightmare. For example, the erosion of the black nuclear family and school-to-prison pipeline would deeply concern him. Concentrated urban poverty, high joblessness for African American males, gang violence, police brutality and health disparities would also tamper some of his happiness. These are a few issues in the African American community that would confront Dr. King’s dream were he alive today.
This article discusses several actions that African Americans should take to remedy these issues. I developed these suggestions partly from speeches and books authored by Rev. King. Let’s briefly review each of them.
Repair the African American Family
The African American family is the foundation of the African American community. It is in shambles, however, as 75% of every African American child is born to a single mother. This statistic would probably shock Dr. King because during his lifetime only about 35% of African American children were born out of wedlock. With this doubling of out-of-wedlock births, the awful occurrence of poverty, delinquency, and poor academic performance have also increased sharply in the African American community.
What can be done to repair the African American family? It is a quick fix. We must return to the source of the family, who is God, and seek His guidance. In the scriptures, He gave us a simple inscription for sex and the family. They are as follow:
- marriage should be the only place for sex,
- marriage should be between a loving and God-fearing man and woman,
- marriage should be for life.
A commitment to these three family values alone would repair many issues that destroy African American families.
Redirect African American Youth
Perhaps the sad plight of African American youth, especially African American males, would sadden Dr. King the most. Visit a local courthouse, probation office or prison to see for yourself the awful state of black youth. A full one-third of all black males are inmates, probationers or parolees. Hence, one-third of young African American men are convicted felons, and thus are disenfranchised, distrusted and disregarded.
Even worse, homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males. Young black men are killing each other daily across the nation for petty reasons. How can the African American community possibly be hopeful when our youth are relegated to America’s morgues and criminal justice system. Undoubtedly, if Dr. King were alive today, the current state of African American youth would deeply sadden him.
Above we offered the solution to the dilemma facing black youth when we said repairing the black nuclear family is critical. Additionally, black youth needs better schools, jobs, early childhood education, and criminal justice reform. Most importantly, we need to reconnect black youth with the black church. Let’s discuss the contours of this reconnection now.
Reconnect to the African American Church
If the black family is the foundation of the black community, the ground beneath this foundation is the black church. The black community has drawn strength and inspiration from the black church. It has been the center of our struggle for justice, behind its walls and stained windows, we learn about God and His Will for our lives. Significantly, we learned our values from the black church. Our understanding of faith, freedom, family, fatherhood, to name a few, all come from messages preached in black churches.
Sadly, many blacks have abandoned the black church especially young black men. This troubling apostasy is at the root of many problems dogging young black men. Indeed, the violence, despair, fatherlessness and many other issues facing young black men can be traced back to the unfortunate disconnect with the black church. Disconnecting from the black church is for young black men, in essence, an abandonment of God. The Scriptures tell us that those who forget God will be turn over to hell. Psalm 9:17
To bridge this disconnect the black church must change. The onus is on the black church to connect with young black males. Black ministers must identify with and address their struggles and work to recapture their imaginations and dreams. We must make church relevant again. Remember, it was the black church that led and inspired the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements.
Reinvest in African American Businesses
African Americans spend a trillion dollars annually. That spending power makes us collectively wealthier than most nations, affording us the opportunity to create great black power. Instead, other communities control our money. We do not even control the products we use in our hair. Broadly speaking, we do not control anything economically. This sad fact is one of the unintended consequences of racial integration as we have abandoned black businesses.
To gain control of these dollars we need to take many actions including patronizing black businesses. The next time you need a doctor patronize a black physician. Similarly, if you need an attorney, architect, realtor or have some other business need, patronize a black business person. Moreover, if there’s no black business to patronize, become that black business. Black business ownership has many advantages for both the owner and community. Not only do black businesses help us control black dollars they can assist the black community in reducing black joblessness by creating jobs.
Recommit to the Struggle for Racial Justice
Some African Americans apparently think the fight for racial justice is over. It is not. Our enemies are persistently planning and strategizing while we sleep. They never stop working to “take back America.”
No one has stoked the fears of some white Americans like President Barack Obama. They consider his election fueled by changing demographics to be their wake up call. His election produced the most severe white backlash our nation has experienced causing the white power structure to implement many initiatives to protect white power and privileges. They started focusing on local elections and state legislatures. This clever strategy enabled them to begin disenfranchising many black Americans. Their disenfranchisement efforts won them a major victory in the Supreme Court with the Shelby v. Holder case, a decision that struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That was a huge setback for African Americans.
More difficulties are coming if blacks do not recommit to the struggle for racial justice. This recommitment means, at a minimum, voting in local and national elections. Local elections are more critical than Washington politics because local elections control the policies, purse strings and people who control our lives locally. We neglect local elections at our peril.
Additionally, join and support national and local organizations that work to empower the black community. Please consider our organization, NBPA, for membership and financial support. Our opponents are well funded and organized. Unlike African Americans, they do not wait for the next crisis to react, they are organizing, working and strategizing when all seems quite well.
We must act fast to save and transform the African American community. As we said above, our immediate attention should turn to the black family. We must discover why black men and women are afraid of the marital covenant and correct it. Once corrected, the next generation of black youth will fare better automatically. The other suggested actions are needed as well to correct major problems in the African American community. In sum, I believe Dr. King would be pleased with our overall progress but I also believe he would encourage us to dig deeper and take the above actions immediately to protect that progress.