Now that the US has elected – twice – a black president, one could well wonder why the March on Washington is still relevant. Younge provides a few reasons: de facto segregation in American schools; black child poverty nearly triple that of whites; black unemployment double that of whites. “These are problems which, while conditioned by Jim Crow, do not vanish upon its demise” – an ever-timely observation by Rustin, quoted by Younge. As a society we have conflated the end of legal segregation with the end of racism and inequality. We have achieved the former but allow the latter to go increasingly unchallenged. I cannot imagine that King, were he to walk that corridor of homeless men in the Philadelphia of my youth, would have felt his dream had been realised. I do not believe he could look at the current state of America’s prisons, or its schools, and feel his work was complete. Our drowning working class and the rising poverty across the nation continue to belie America’s promise. We have been gifted with his legacy. On this auspicious anniversary we must be reminded, to borrow King’s words, “of the fierce urgency of now”.
more from Ayana Mathis at the FT here.