The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 24, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012

Remember the words, lessons of Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King’s overall leadership was never about civil rights alone, but was also about a campaign for jobs and income, because he understood that economic injustice prevents “real freedom” and was the most crucial issue that black people would continue to face.

Dr. King once remarked, “What benefit is civil rights to a Negro to be able to go into an integrated restaurant, yet he does not have a job to afford a hamburger?”

In his final speech, Dr. King stated, “We must begin the process of building a greater economic base in Negro communities.” This was a clear leadership directive to initiate black economic development by establishing businesses.

Dr. King was always engaged with economic issues, from using economic tactics like the Montgomery bus boycott and the boycotts of places like Woolworth’s that accompanied the lunch counter sit-ins. He stressed the connection between racism and economic injustice: “Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice, but tolerated or ignored economic injustice. But the Negro knows that these two evils have a malignant kinship.”   

It is obvious as black people we’ve abandoned Dr. King’s legacy by neglecting and failing to follow through on his final economic directive to us. The majority of blacks today live in neighborhoods dominated by non-black businesses that make billions of dollars from us.

Dr. King stated, “Always anchor your external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. Never stop and forget that collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.”

Though we have nearly a trillion dollars of purchasing power in our midst, we are a national body of economically colonized consumers who spend only 2 cents of every dollar with black businesses; of the nearly trillion we spend, 98 cents goes to create economic development and wealth for non-blacks.

Adib Aqeel