It’s Still Just a Dream: Racial Equity in the US

April 4, 2017
By Kendra Allen


Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee forty-nine years ago today. Our Black civil rights leader, who practiced nonviolence and preached freedom for all, was killed while supporting Black sanitation workers who were striking for fair wages.

As we reflect on today, it is important to remember that the world he was fighting for is not yet a reality. African-Americans and other people of color are still largely unable to fully participate in America’s economy. Our identities such as race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion sadly still divide us.

Consumer Health Foundation has long been engaged in the fight for health equity, economic justice and racial equity in our region. We know that the unemployment rate is highest in the District’s ward 8, which is also home to the largest population of Blacks in the city. In addition, from our recent community conversations in wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8, we understand even more acutely that affordable housing is not actually affordable for low-income communities of color.

While the region is slowly coming to understand that racism is still structured in our local economies, governments and daily lives, it is heartening to see more people activating around racial equity and justice. For example, the philanthropic sector has formed a Racial Equity Working Group after participating in the Putting Racism on the Table series.

Twenty-five days after King’s murder, the Poor People’s Campaign, which he organized to bring together people of all races to fight for economic security, released an economic bill of rights that is as urgent in 2017 as it was in 1968. The document included:

  • A meaningful job at a living wage for every employable citizen.
  • A secure and adequate income for all who cannot find jobs or for whom employment is inappropriate.
  • Access to land as a means to income and livelihood.
  • Access to capital as a means of full participation in the economic life of America.
  • Recognition by law of the right of people affected by government programs to play a truly significant role in determining how they are designed and carried out.

CHF, along with our grantee and philanthropic partners, is actively striving to make these rights a reality in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

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