Estados Unidos: The key to honoring King is equality in education

Estados Unidos/Enero de 2018/Fuente: The Kansas City  Star

Resumen:  Al celebrar el aniversario del cumpleaños del reverendo Martin Luther King Jr., también debemos reconocer otro aniversario importante, este año: el asesinato del gran líder de los derechos civiles hace 50 años, el 4 de abril de 1968, en Lorena Motel en Memphis, Tenn.

El asesinato de King fue el evento más aleccionador y desastroso de su época para los afroamericanos en todo el país. Más de 100 ciudades en todo Estados Unidos explotaron en disturbios cuando los afroamericanos expresaron abiertamente su indignación y su dolor por el asesinato de King.

Habiendo visitado recientemente el Museo Nacional de Derechos Civiles en el Motel Lorraine, donde están en marcha los reconocimientos del aniversario del asesinato de King, recuerdo el impacto duradero de la vida y la muerte de King en nuestra comunidad y el país, así como la importancia de revitalizar su sueño.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we must also acknowledge another important anniversary, this year — the assassination of the great civil rights leader 50 years ago, on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

King’s assassination was the most sobering and disastrous event of its time for African Americans nationwide. More than 100 cities across the United States exploded in riots as African Americans openly expressed their outrage and grief over the slaying of King.

Having recently visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where acknowledgments of the anniversary of King’s assassination are underway, I am reminded of the lasting impact of King’s life and death on our community and the country as well as the importance of revitalizing his dream.

As I reflect on King, his leadership and his work, I know he would be deeply saddened by the state of affairs in this country today. He fought for equality for the black community and for greater opportunity for those living in poverty. Today, we see civil rights laws being undone, segregation once again well entrenched and education in rapid decline. Our country, our community and our children are traumatized by the division, the inequity and the violence in today’s America.

Perhaps we have become numb to the recurring shootings of unarmed black men in our streets, to the stories of increasing poverty and violence against women and children.

Perhaps we feel too discouraged to demand change today. Despite the efforts of King and other civil rights leaders more than 50 years ago, we are facing a 21st century Jim Crow with the school-to-prison pipeline, reminding us that the need for future prison beds is based on the current number of students who are not reading at grade level by third grade.

Perhaps we feel powerless when we read reports like “The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education,” which tells us that more than 60 years after the Supreme Court Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision in 1954, which ended legal segregation, efforts to get more teachers of color in schools has been abysmal.

Perhaps we are bewildered to learn that from 1987 to 2012, the minority share of American teachers increased from 12 percent of the total to 17 percent, while in the same 25-year period, the minority share of the American student population mushroomed so that children of color now account for more than half of all public school students.

There is one more disturbing bit of information from the report: Teachers of color are concentrated in urban schools serving high poverty, minority communities.

While all of this is true, we who watched King, studied him and honor him must revive, reactivate and resurrect the civil rights leader’s dream!

That is why the National Association for Multicultural Education will commemorate both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement with NAME’s 28th annual international convention in Memphis this year. The NAME conference theme will be “How Many More ’Til We Rise Up? Multicultural Education, a Radical Response of Love, Life and Dr. King’s Dream.”

Multicultural education was born out of the struggles of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. With leaders like King, the movement brought change to the United States and the rest of the world. As we work to resurrect King’s dream we must challenge policies that seek to roll back civil rights gains.

We must call for radically informed education that meets the needs of an emerging majority-minority nation and empowers marginalized, traditionally underserved groups. We must challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, all forms of oppression and neoliberal efforts that seek to make unjust practices mainstream.

In these difficult times, the best way to honor King’s legacy is to take action that disrupts injustice and inequities in education because education is the key to a successful future for our youth.

The National Association for Multicultural Education reminds us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and, now more than ever, multicultural education must be at the forefront in reviving King’s dream.”

This should be everyone’s aim, especially considering recent reports that show students of color suffer a disproportionate percentage of suspensions, expulsions and placement in special education classes. It should also be no surprise that efforts to destroy the foundation of education for minority students will result in fewer entering college, fewer completing their degrees and being hired in good paying careers.

The association must address these and other equity and social justice concerns at its Memphis conference including King’s push to end poverty. The minimum wage reached its inflation-adjusted historic high in 1968, the year King was assassinated. While the minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour, at least one report says that using the 1968 benchmark, the minimum wage today should be $21.16 an hour.

King fought for and won the Voting Rights Act, yet legislatively that law has been defanged, and many states now make it restrictive for people of color to cast ballots.

Yes, it is time to revive, revitalize, resurrect King’s dream for all Americans. It’s well past time for people to act. The U.S. cannot afford to wait any longer.

Education has to lead the way, but we, as individuals must act, as well. Where to start? Read, inform and educate yourselves.

Start with something from our history, like “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson, and then something new, like “Our Fathers: Making Black Men” by Lewis Diuguid.

Then act. Do something to make the world around you better. Volunteer at a school or library, read to neighborhood kids, become a mentor. These things matter.


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