Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is a time to consider race and skin color in this country, the progress that has been made and the distance to go.
Blacks lead large and small businesses, serve on boards of directors, lead military units, hold elected office and earn significant salaries in numbers that have grown greatly and in percentages that are encouraging and continue to climb. But the numbers still fall short, and hurdles remain, some consciously and unconsciously imposed and some self-made.
Absent fathers and a high birth rate by single mothers continue to make family life much less than what it should be and create a cycle that is difficult to break.
Prison populations are much more black than warranted, partly because of drug laws that turned out to disproportionately incarcerate urban youths.
A good education, which leads to much more than just a good wage, is spreading, but too slowly and with far to go.
The gap between those who have and those who do not in this country is expanding, as it is in major countries elsewhere in the world. Too often it is minority populations that are left behind.
King would be awed by the results, today, of the civil-rights movement of the 1960s: the integration that has taken place in the public sector and in the workplace, in public schools, in equal access to housing and to government programs. He would be impressed with the number of blacks on college and university faculties, as well as those contributing at high levels in government.
Given what is occurring in Washington, D.C., today, King would feel pride in the man who twice has won the confidence of a majority of Americans. And in the first lady, an extraordinary role model to millions of young women in the world.
But King also rightly would see opportunities to apply his efforts to further strengthen integration, education and workplace opportunities. We are not there yet.