50 years after King speech, discrimination feeds black economic gap: ObamaReuters . New York / New Age Online
President Barack Obama said on Friday that America's history of racial discrimination had contributed to a persistent economic gap between blacks and whites in the 50 years since Martin Luther King's landmark ‘I have a dream’ speech.
Obama said his own story showed the ‘enormous strides’ the United States had made since King's speech, but as Washington commemorates the anniversary of King's address, the disparity between black and white income remained.
‘What we've also seen is that the legacy of discrimination, slavery, Jim Crow, has meant that some of the institutional barriers for success for a lot of groups still exist,’ Obama, the first black U.S. president, said in answering a question at a town hall meeting at Binghamton University in New York state.
‘You know, African-American poverty in this country is still significantly higher than other groups. Same is true for Latinos. Same is true for Native Americans,’ he said.
Divisive U.S. politics is a factor in the growing gap between rich and poor in America, Obama said.
‘The tendency to suggest somehow that government is taking something from you and giving it to somebody else and your problems will be solved if we just ignore them or don't help them ... is something that we have to constantly struggle against, whether we're black or white or whatever color we are,’ he said.
Data shows that five decades after King's speech during the ‘March for Jobs and Freedom’ in Washington on August 28, 1963, the black-white economic gap has persisted despite huge gains in education and political clout by blacks.
Black unemployment is about twice that for whites, the same as in 1963. Blacks also have been disproportionately hammered by the deep 2007-2009 recession and credit crunch.
Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said blacks lagged whites for a number of reasons. They include slightly lower levels of education, weaker business networking and the U.S. failure to create good-paying jobs since the 1970s.
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