Dear Dr. King,
The day you were assassinated I was on the campus of Prairie View A&M, which in 1968 was still an all-black college located just west of Houston, Texas. I and several other white students were participating in an ‘exchange program’ in collaboration with the college I was attending.
In those days, Southwest Texas State College students mostly came from small Texas towns. The guys were shit-kickers i.e. studying agriculture; the women aspiring to become teachers, nurses and wives. There were no blacks on campus.
Dr. Clyde Bullion, our very liberal and a tad kooky sociology professor, spent several years opening minds and hearts, encouraging everyone to embrace integration and social justice. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African-American writers and poets. Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out readings from Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Dubois. Quite impressive. We thought the visit to Prairie View made perfect sense for us.
During our two day visit, we were treated respectfully by the students and staff of the college. We attended classes, plays and social events. I remember sitting with a group of black students in an off-campus bar and asking, rather naively, the question surely stolen from me by Rodney King (whose beating and related consequences are attributed to the 1992 Los Angeles race riots) “I don’t know why we all can’t just get along?” Later, stunned and disheartened to the core to hear you were gunned down, we visitors were immediately sent home to “avoid any problems.”
I think you would agree, it seems to have gotten much better. We even elected our first black president! Then, sadly, we are reminded of how deeply racism runs in our country with shootings of unarmed black children and men. #blacklivesmatter, the statistics regarding racial profiling by the police, voter repression tactics in some states, and the appalling racist behaviors of some citizens toward our very own President Obama. These incidences have us facing realities we may not wish to admit.
The statistics also prove inequality still exists. Here are a few stats from Black Demographics website.
Blacks make up 14.1% of the population in the US.
Percentage in poverty: Blacks 24.2% All races 11.8%
Percentage in poverty under 18: Blacks 39.6% All races 22.6% (Appalling so many children of any ‘color’ are living in poverty.)
Graduation rate: Blacks 63.6% All races 80.6% (Which seems rather low as a whole.)
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the rate of whites.
Black Median Household income: $33,460
(all races $50,502)
All Black Workers 2012 weekly earnings:$606
(all races $765)
Black Men weekly earnings: $633
(White men $854)
Black Women weekly earnings: $590
(White women $712)
So, Dr. King, there seems still much work to be done. Annually on January 19th, people in cities around the US march to keep your spirit and desire for social justice alive. I still hope someday we can all get along.
Right here in San Antonio, we have one of the largest marches of any city. For more information on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day San Antonio March, click here, or find one in your city.