Today is a holiday here in the United States in commemoration of the birthday of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rejecting violent protest, Dr. King fought for equal justice for all, especially African Americans.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author and commentator. She told English to Africa reporter James Butty that Americans should remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an “economic” activist because his life was much more than a man who just dreamt. “In the same speech where he said I have a dream, he also said we have come to the nation’s capital to cash a check and this check has been marked ‘insufficient funds’. The fact is that the promises that Dr. King articulated have still not been met by America. So we should remember the gap between what could be and what is. We have a long way to go.”
Dr. Malveaux says African Americans have yet to attain economic equity. “When you look at any of the indicators, the white unemployment rate is about four and a half percent. The black unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent. In terms of wealth, African Americans own nearly two percent of the nation’s wealth. Home ownership, 75 percent of whites own their homes compared to less than half of African Americans.”
Dr. Malveaux says the inequity can be broken by taking a closer look at the issue of allocation. “I think in the United States, we need to look at how we make sure that African Americans can pull up chairs and sit at the same table as whites.”
She says the same questions should be asked on the world stage. “What conditions would it take for Africa to sit at the world table and to have a conversation about the way our world resources are being divided? You have countries like Nigeria, which has a significant amount of oil. It should be considered a world player. Countries like South Africa, they are still sitting at the periphery. What does it take to bring them to the table?”
Dr. Malveaux says the world should not treat investment on the African continent as if it were a charity. Instead, she says it should be treated as a return on the initial contribution that Africa made to world development.
Dr. Malveaux says the issue today is not whether there is any African American today with the charisma of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She says there are plenty of media-savvy black politicians: “The issue is the commitment to act. What are we going to do? Dr. King, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 said: “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, dignity, equality and freedom for their spirit.’ The question to ask everyone, whether they are in Africa or in the diaspora or somewhere else is: do you believe that we can have a fair and free world and what are you going to do about it?”