The Mountaintop and Beyond: Dr. King’s Legacy and the Unfinished Business of the Racial Wealth Gap

The Mountaintop and Beyond: Dr. King’s Legacy and the Unfinished Business of the Racial Wealth Gap

by Javaughnae Malone March 27, 2024 261

At Vivian’s Door, we celebrate Dr. King’s dream daily with authenticity, humility, intention, and much thought. Imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive today. Undoubtedly, he’d be at the forefront of the battle to bridge America’s alarming racial wealth gap. The dream he so passionately spoke about on that fateful night in Memphis wasn’t just about equality in the eyes of the law but uplifting oppressed people held down for centuries.

In his own words from “Why We Can’t Wait,” Dr. King highlighted the need to do something special for the black community, acknowledging the centuries of mistreatment. He knew that merely changing laws wouldn’t erase the deep-seated inequalities in education, employment, wealth, and housing. Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves grappling with a reality that starkly contrasts Dr. King’s vision. Despite the victories of the civil rights movement, the racial wealth gap persists, casting a shadow over the progress made.

According to Harvard Journal 2021, the net wealth of a typical black family in America is around one-tenth that of a white family. Furthermore, a Brookings Institute 2024 publication notes that since 2010, the wealth disparity between black and white families has persistently expanded. From the first Survey of Consumer Finances in 1983, the smallest difference between black and white family wealth was $123,910 in 1992, which has steadily climbed since, peaking in 2022.

Putting the racial wealth gap side by side with Dr. King’s call for desegregation, we see it wasn’t just about ending the blatant exclusions of Jim Crow; it was a plea to dismantle slavery embedded systemic disadvantages. No doubt, the laws enacted to eliminate discrimination in housing, education, employment, and lending helped to level the playing field. However, some have twisted the civil rights message into something it’s not. Dr. King fought for justice and equality, not a free pass for anyone to exploit the system. The struggle against racial inequality is far from over, and it requires a genuine commitment to addressing the root causes.

In a world where some may declare victory prematurely, Dr. King’s legacy reminds us that the battle for racial justice is ongoing. Repairing the damage inflicted by centuries of oppression is not a one-time sprint but a journey of continuous effort to create a truly equitable society.

So, as we celebrate the legacy of Dr King, let’s reflect on his last speech and his enduring legacy; let’s not forget the urgency he placed on addressing the historical disadvantages faced by the black community. If he were here today, Dr. King would likely be on the front lines working with organizations like Vivian’s Door, urging us to do more, to strive for a society where the wealth gap isn’t a testament to our failures but a symbol of our collective commitment to justice.

In the spirit of Dr. King, let’s continue the journey from the mountaintop and venture beyond, tackling the racial wealth gap head-on and unrelentingly continuing the fight to ensure his dream becomes a reality for all.

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