Guest column: Jack Tymann ... Fifty years later — still a long way to go, on many fronts

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On Wednesday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It is an opportune time to reflect on progress made over these years.

The positives are unmistakable. America has made great strides toward racial equality. The school segregation and discrimination in public accommodations that stained America’s soul before 1963 have been totally rejected as immoral and untenable.

Today most blacks are better educated, with 85 percent now completing four years of high school, compared to 25 percent back then; 21 percent of blacks complete four years of college, compared to less than 4 percent in 1963.

New doors have been opened with many African Americans today more prosperous, owning more businesses, and serving as corporate executives — far more so than their parents or grandparents.

Today Americans have elected over 10,000 black public sector officials, six times the number 50 years ago. This includes President Barack Obama. Two recent U.S. secretaries of state have been African Americans.

Today more Americans of all races and are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

That’s the good news side.

These important racial improvements are accompanied by continued reprehensible problems in our inner cities.

Today the poverty rate among black Americans is almost double the national rate. Approximately 70 percent of America’s black children are born out of wedlock — the result of a family breakdown that is partially an unintended consequence of various welfare programs. They include financial support for single moms — well-intentioned initiatives designed to boost these very same citizens.

Black unemployment rates are twice those of whites — a statistic virtually unchanged since 1963.

Inner-city schools are failing shamefully — despite huge infusions of government funds in attempts to fix them.

Black hip-hoppers earn countless millions while creating a culture that degrades women and celebrates murder, drugs, sex, violence, vulgarity, and materialism. The culture’s “gangsta rap” heroes have become role models for far too many young fatherless African Americans.

The family and school breakdowns, coupled with the hip-hop culture, inner city gangs and drug usage, have contributed to black crime and black prison incarceration rates six times higher than for whites.

A just-released Pew Study concludes that the economic and social gaps between whites and African Americans have sadly widened over the last few decades — despite countless state and federal civil rights laws and five decades of affirmative action programs.

Overall — not a proud reflection on the United States of America.

Meanwhile, racial polarization continues from the days of the O.J. Simpson trial to the George Zimmerman trial — surfacing again with the senseless murders of a visiting Australian baseball player and an 88-year-old World War II veteran.

The primary shooter of the Australian reportedly was dancing and laughing while being booked. One of his two co-conspirators said that they shot the young man for a thrill — because they were bored.

These killers had no parental supervision.

Soon afterward national outrage was sparked by the brutal beating to death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran in a Spokane parking lot by two black teenage males.

We should not even discuss these crimes as possibly racially motivated — but rather reflect on them as a byproduct of the situations discussed above.

We need today’s civil rights leaders to draw strength from King’s vision of a world without racism — and speak out against the realities of those growing up in America’s poorer inner city communities — not as racial issues — but as unacceptable and disgraceful scourges that must be corrected for the good of our entire nation.

We need Obama to become the post-racial president we all hoped he would be.

Instead of accusing Zimmerman of a hate crime, we need today’s civil rights activists to use their bully pulpits to educate America about the truths and challenges of our poorest neighborhoods — to focus on the fact that in the 18 months since Trayvon Martin’s death, a staggering 10,000 black-on-black murders were committed in our inner cities.

What’s happening on in our cities is a shameful American tragedy. It’s unconscionable that the world’s greatest nation somehow ignores or allows this calamity. But we will never even begin to solve this unless and until America openly acknowledges the existence of a dangerous crisis, discusses it without fear or political correctness, ends the “blame game” and race baiting, and unites behind viable long term solutions.

As MLK concluded 50 years ago: “The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”

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