The Experience Inequity on MLK Day 2021

These are unreal times! A year ago, we could not have dreamt of the multiple crises we are experiencing in our nation today with our health, the economy, racial justice system, climate, and the foundations of our democracy at great risk. What is most striking is the inequity in individual experiences and the gravity of these crises for members of under-represented communities compared to the majority of the population.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech about a nation that would “hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” is even more relevant and important than ever. Last year, we started our MLK Day blog with Dr. King’s speech and the historian James Truslow Adams’ American Dream of “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his [or her] ability or achievement.”

Today, on MLK Day 2021, our contribution is to use readily available data to raise awareness of the inequities that are deepened by the current crises and to highlight the urgency and the need for action. There are many resources beyond those indicated below. Please consider this a starting point to inspire you to increase your personal involvement as part of the solution.

Health Inequity

At a press conference before the 1966 Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Dr. King said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is one of the most trusted sources of data  about the health inequities experienced by People of Color.  For example, Black people have died from the Coronavirus at 1.6 times the rate of white people. The CDC’s comprehensive list of “Factors that contribute to increased risk” provides a roadmap for action.

Economic Inequity

The disproportionate economic impact of the Corona crisis on People of Color has been widely reported in terms of the percentages of these under-represented communities who have lost their jobs. We find this CNBC piece on the disparity in unemployment benefits to be important and not as commonly understood. For example, only 13% of unemployed Blacks receive unemployment benefits, compared to 24% of whites. The gap is even wider depending on the US state where People of Color live.

Racial Justice

More than even before, events of 2020 have proven why there are widely different perceptions of our criminal justice system by different communities, as reported by the Pew Research Center in 2019.  Nearly 9 in 10 Black adults said Black Americans are treated less fairly than their white counterparts, compared to 6 in 10 white adults. Experts agree, this perception is largely driven by our experiences. We found this NPR piece useful on how to “Channel Anger Into Action To Fight Racism.”

Climate Inequity

In this Yale Environment 360 interview, activist Elizabeth Yeampierre, Chair of the Climate Justice Alliance, “draws a direct line from slavery and the rapacious exploitation of natural resources to current issues of

environmental justice.” She draws attention to slaves “who got the worst food, the worst health care, the worst treatment, and then when freed, were given lands that were eventually surrounded by things like petrochemical industries.” For a more global view, we recommend Brookings Institute’s piece on tackling these inequalities.

On this MLK Day 2021, it is clear that the inequities described above are unacceptable and ultimately harmful to all of society. In 1965, two years after his famous “I have a Dream Speech,” Dr King talked about an enduring and broader dream “that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well-being for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, and freedom for their spirits.” He understood that “the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”

Please write to us at about your own experience of the multiple crises. Also feel free to take advantage of the resources to read / listen to/ watch / buy here, and let us know if you’d like to add to the list.

Photo by Dayton Daily News

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