In these days leading up to the 2016 election, it is difficult to avoid news events created by the presidential candidates scrambling for our attention and vote. In election season, forgotten neighborhoods are visited, promises of a great future are made and the pains of communities wounded by racial injustice and institutional neglect become the subject of slogans and slick commercials to demonstrate empathy with the common man.
Access and Equity Gap Persists
Many educators have just received their 2014-2015 student performance scores and many are talking about declines or stagnation in the NAEP test given to 4th and 8th graders, (often called the nation’s report card). The “achievement gap” between children of color and their white counterparts is increasingly a topic of conversation among educators. Economic disparity and unequal access to opportunity has also become obvious to many across the country. It is impossible to ignore the limited job prospects for young males of color, limited access to capital for entrepreneurs of color, excessive and unjust incarceration of young males of color, and the perpetuation of a failing system of unequal education that trap far too many in a probable downward spiral to life long hopelessness.
The past 2 years, with the broad use of cell phone cameras, we have seen in HD video many of these injustices occurring throughout the country to people, most often poor. Many living with the daily challenge of basic survival in a system where institutionalized obstacles block their participation and success.
A prior blog post suggested that we consider the 4Es as we rethink our focus on building communities that have been neglected economically, socially and educationally. The 4Es are:
Education – Exposure – Employment
On this election day, we may want to revisit a message from a past president on the matters of race, equity and the moral obligation that we have as a nation – to ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at the illusive American dream.
Black Lives Matter (1963 Version)
In 1962 we had a bold President that challenged the country, focusing our collective energy on the race to be the first nation to land on the moon. On July 20th 1969 that presidential vision was realized with the walks taken by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren. President Kennedy challenged us to greatness. But he also recognized a truth back then that unfortunately lingers today – more than 50 years later. Try listening to this historic speech thinking of the communities in Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island and other neighborhoods where poverty, joblessness, insecurity and fear are the norm. Take the challenge and listen to this presidential address, considering that more than 50 years have gone by since its broadcast to a nation struggling with a moral dilemma.
The video is 13 minutes but the message unfortunately is decades old. If I were to paraphrase the message it is Black Lives Matter (1963 version). Try to get through to the end.
So where are we in 2015? Yes, we have come a long way for some, but for too many, we have not moved far at all. Listen to the words from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who now holds the senate seat held by President John Kennedy and then Senator Ted Kennedy. Senator Warren is a modern day voice for equal rights and access for people of color and for people struggling to provide for their families. Admitting that she does not fully understand the true plight of people of color she argues for their equal justice and access. Start watching from 14:00 ending 40:00.