1/18: Atlanta and American Dream

Moderated by Rick Badie

Poverty and economic inequality were cornerstones of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights campaigns at his demise. As the Occupy protests show, debate on this issue remains unsettled. Two guest columnists compare today’s financial situation with how things were when King was alive. Others say better opportunities today don’t guarantee equal results — and shouldn’t.

Read what Margaret C. Simms, senior fellow and director of the Low-Income Working Families project at the Urban Institute, has to say, along with Michael T. Hill, CEO and president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce.

Then tell us what you think.

6 comments Add your comment

Mary Elizabeth

January 21st, 2012
10:03 am

If we have the national will, we can improve the lives of those less fortunately born than we, as most Americans chose to do during the 1960s and part of the 1970s. We, simply, should recognize that there can exist balance between private sector business interests and social interests, supported through our government.

Dr. Paul Krugman, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics, describes why we, as American citizens, should strive for more income equality in our nation. His column is in today’s (1/21/11) AJC:

“Last week Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, gave an important speech about income inequality, presenting a relationship he dubbed the ‘Great Gatsby Curve.’ Highly unequal countries, he showed, have low mobility: the more unequal a society is, the greater the extent to which an individual’s economic status is determined by his or her parents’ status. And as Mr. Krueger pointed out, this relationship suggests that America in the year 2035 will have even less mobility than it has now, that it will be a place in which the economic prospects of children largely reflect the class into which they were born. . .

For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place — and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.”


January 19th, 2012
8:21 pm

Lower class blacks are on a path to destruction and permanent poverty and dispair. We see it in te lack of a basic education, out of wedlock births, crime statistics. The small number of blacks in the areas of engineering, medicine and specialty fields is practically non-existent. Even the way our lower class young men act and dress is appalling. We have women trying to show boys how to be men and we have men who act like boys.
A portion of the jobless rate can be directly attributed to how that person looks, acts and dresses. Our boys are being left in the dust.
Where is the outcry from our alleged leadership? All of these pundits in the media wont touc the subject. Why hasnt anyone said anything to anyone about the state of black amaerica. Where is the Congressional Black Caucus? Our president? NAACP? Urban League?

This is an economic and academic battle that must be won by us. To pseudo-black leadership in this country, you are all cowards and charlatans. For the love f God, someone please channel the spirit of Dr. King and speak up, and not go away. EVER!

We must help ourselves. Its the only way.


January 18th, 2012
5:32 pm

If Dr. King was here today I think he really be on the government about how the American Citizens have been put out of work as employers favor non-citizens for cheap labor. All of the politicians, democratic and republicans are out of touch with what is really going on in America with the average family. I sit and listen to their debates and they talk about how 99 weeks of unemployment could have been turned into an Associate’s degree. Well I have a degree and I’m still out of work. They talk about how Americans should go be retooled in today’s technology and skills. I have skills in the IT field, but most of the companies prefer Indians. I’m almost to the point where I just want to throw my hands in the air and agree with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and say “God Damn America”. My country has turned it’s back on me in favor of people who are not citizens.


January 18th, 2012
4:32 pm

As someone who has worked to elect political leaders who will seek to serve the common good of all citizens, it seems almost an impossible dream at this point. Everyone is special interest these days.
The rise of non-profits has only made our world more at odds it seems to me.


January 18th, 2012
11:45 am

The problem extends from the 1960’s. What was well intended has now put at least three generations on the path to poverty. All dependent on The government to provide housing, clothing, food. MLK visioned everyone with a CHANCE to take care of themselves, feel good about themselves, but with government, we have turned this Dream into a shame of low self esteem, low sef existance and dependent on the Government for a meeger existance..time for a “CHANGE”

Mary Elizabeth

January 18th, 2012
9:57 am

Mr. Hill shares Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that he “would discuss the poverty that effects white and Negro alike. King recommend that “a housing program to transform living conditions, improved educational facilities to furnish tools for better job opportunities, and family counseling to create better personal adjustments . . to remove the causes of poverty.”

As an educator of 35 years in the state of Georgia, I know, from firsthand experience, that poverty, within all groups, is the root cause of economic and educational deprivation, which often go hand-in-hand.

I have witnessed changes in America since the 1950s that have both helped and hindered the economic and educational advancement of those who struggle to climb from poverty’s grasp.

I remember Jim Crow. I remember Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I remember LBJ’s “War on Poverty.” I remember the end of school segregation in Georgia. I have taught in both a segregated black school and integrated schools.

In the 1960s, Americans had a national will that confirmed the value of service to others and the need for social change, thus, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Peace Corps, the “War on Poverty.” Author Jeff Madrick’s recently published book, “Age of Greed,” describes economic changes in America since the 1970s which have been based on inordinate self-interest in the accruing of personal wealth.

King was not only a pragmatist, he was a visionary. He said that he wanted to “be there in love, in justice, in truth, and in commitment to others so that we can make of this old world, a new world.” And King was correct, both as a pragmatist and as a visionary.

We are on the wrong course in Georgia at the present time. We must again confirm the value of public education. We must be more progressive in the development of our infrastructure. We must realize, again, that we are all interconnected. And we must, again, value service to others. When we choose to make these moral and social adjustments in our hearts, we will elect political leaders who will seek to serve the “common good” of all of Georgia’s citizens, and who will seek ways to fund the pragmatic suggestions King gave, decades ago, for the alleviation of poverty, which affects us all.