“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
While the U.S. celebrates the re-election of its first African American President and the successes of numerous African Americans in all walks of life, there remain troubling challenges.
While remembering how far this nation has come since Dr. King was alive, we cannot forget how far we have still to go to combat the oppressions of racism, materialism and militarism.
Whites have 22 times more wealth than blacks and 15 times more wealth than Latino/as. Median household net worth for whites was $110,000 versus $4,900 for blacks versus $7,424 for Latinos, according to CNN Money and the Census Bureau.
African Americans are 12.3 percent of the population but 4.7 percent of attorneys.
Latino/as are 15.8 percent of the population but only 2.8 percent of attorneys.
African American students face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school classes and are more likely to be taught by less experienced and lower paid teachers according to a government sponsored national survey of 72,000 schools.
13% of whites, 21% of blacks and 32% of Hispanics lack health insurance, according to the Kaiser Foundation.
The latest Census analysis shows 9% of white families below the U.S. poverty level and 23% of Black and Hispanic families below the same levels.
The chairman of Goldman Sachs was awarded $21 million in total pay for 2012 according to the Wall Street Journal.
From 1978 to 2011, compensation for workers grew by 5.7 percent. During the same time, CEO compensation grew by 725 percent. In 1965 CEOs earned about 20 times the typical worker. In 2011, the typical CEO “earned” over 200 times the typical worker.
The top 1% of earners took home 93% of the growth in incomes in 2010, while middle income household have lower incomes than they did in 1996, according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.
People in the U.S. spent $52 billion on pets in 2012, according to the American Pet Products Association. The latest figures from the Census Bureau indicate the U.S. spends less than $50 billion per year in non-military foreign aid.
Student loan debt is now higher than total credit card debt and total auto loan debt.
Over 2.8 million children in the U.S. live in homes of extreme poverty, less than $2 per person per day before government benefits. This is double what it was 15 years ago.
Nearly one in six people in the U.S. live in poverty according to the Census. One in five children live in poverty. Latest information shows 17% of white children in poverty, 32% of Hispanic children and 35% of black children.
The U.S. spends more on its military than any country in the world. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined! More than China, Russia, UK, France, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Brazil together.
The 2013 military budget authorizes spending $633 billion on our military defense, not including money for the Veterans Administration. The VA budget submission for 2013 is $140 billion. To compare, total federal spending on Social Security for 2012 was about $773 billion.
The U.S. has 737 military bases outside the U.S. around the world and over 2 million military personnel, including Defense Department and local hires.
The U.S. leads the world in the sale of weapons in the global arms market. In 2011 the U.S. tripled sales to $66 billion making up three-quarters of the global market. Russia was second with less than $5 billion in sales.
45% of the 1.6 million veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking disability benefits from physical and mental injuries suffered while in the service.
Suicides in active U.S. military, 349 in 2012, exceeded the 295 total combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2012, according to the Associated Press.
These are challenges we should face with the hope and courage Dr. King and so many others have taught us as we celebrate his accomplishments and his inspiration.
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer who teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace. A version of this article with sources is available. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.