It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” – Whitney M. Young
In 1963, more than a quarter-million people gathered in Washington, DC to march for jobs and equality. The Great March for Jobs and Freedom was a watershed moment in American history – birthing now-iconic speeches that voiced the hardships facing blacks as they sought a fair shot at an elusive dream.
As we fast-forward 50 years and reflect on the progress we’ve made toward economic equality, we meet the sobering truth that much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done. Some people use apparent proofs of progress – that Blacks are no longer barred from living, learning and earning where they want because of their race, not to mention the election and reelection of our first Black president – to conclude that Blacks in America have overcome.
However, a shiny veneer of progress cannot justify the elimination of affirmative action in education and employment; the roll-back of voting rights protections and relegation of this precious franchise to increasingly partisan legislatures; or a cut back on social investments that can help current and future generations thrive in a fast-changing economy.
Taken alone, our achievements could be hailed as good progress in the pursuit of full equality. But unfortunately, the African-American condition has only improved primarily within our own community. This means that economic disparities with whites persist and cast doubt on what we thought was meaningful change.