He imagined opportunity, but we’re creating dependency
Now we are two score and 10 years from the date of Dr. King’s monumental speech to ensure that the self-evident truth defined by Thomas Jefferson and echoed by Lincoln – “that all men are created equal” – lives up to its meaning. It is quite appropriate that the monuments to these three astute Americans are within eyeshot of each other.
However, where have we come in these 50 years and what should we celebrate on this anniversary? Have we achieved the dream Dr. King hoped we would? I say we are not there yet, and in some ways we have gone backward.
Today there can be no doubt that we have highly successful blacks in all walks of life, but when we examine the state of America’s inner cities, we must all be appalled. Shall I say Detroit?
We have fought to break the chains of physical bondage, but the chains of economic bondage are even worse. This is not about social justice, but it is about ensuring that the economic opportunities of America can resurrect small-business entrepreneurship in the black community.
Our economic, tax and regulatory policies must promote free-market growth, innovation, ingenuity and investment. Instead, our policies are expanding the dependency society, not the opportunity society.
We need to promote the growth of small community banks to provide the capital for entrepreneurs in inner cities who have ideas in their heads and determination in their hearts. The Reagan administration pushed this philosophy via urban economic empowerment zones.
Dr. King also stated that “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.” Today, the government is issuing welfare by way of electronic benefits transfer cards and even recruiting people to enroll in the program. The government is issuing free cell phones.
This is not the dream Dr. King wanted us to live. As a matter of fact, Booker T. Washington built a three-pronged attack plan for the black community – education, entrepreneurship and self-reliance. That was Dr. King’s dream.
Not far from Dr. King’s birthplace in Atlanta, a young black teenager sits accused of shooting a 13-month-old baby in the face. That is not part of the dream.
We also are witnessing the complete breakdown and collapse of the family, which was the foundational strength of the black community. Today, 72 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. That is not part of the dream.
Dr. King talked about the promissory note of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the guarantee of unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, when it comes to life, over the past two score years, mothers have aborted some 13 million black babies. The black community would be 36 percent greater save for this tragedy, this genocide.
How many babies never got the chance to pursue Dr. King’s dream – the American dream? How many will never get to be among the next generation of doctors, lawyers, successful businessmen and women, prominent entertainers and sports figures. This travesty is certainly not part of Dr. King’s dream.
So where are the voices speaking up about these issues?
Booker T. Washington stated in 1911:
Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs.
In 1961 when I was born in Atlanta, in the same neighborhood as Dr. King, my parents could not go to Fort Lauderdale Beach or Palm Beach Island in Florida. Fifty years, later I was sworn in to Congress to represent Florida’s 22d District, which included the coastline from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter, including Palm Beach.
I was the first black Republican member of Congress from Florida since Josiah T. Walls in 1874. The election was not about the color of my skin; it was about the content of my character. How paradoxical, then, that John Lewis, who spoke on the famed day of Dr. King’s speech in 1963 and went on to serve in Congress (actually as my representative in Atlanta), campaigned against me in 2010.
I still have a dream, one deeply rooted in the American dream – for my two daughters, for the black community, for all Americans and those who seek liberty and freedom. My dream is not based upon servitude to the government but rather upon exceptionalism.
I have been to California, Colorado and New Hampshire. I was educated in Tennessee and born and raised in Georgia. I am promoting and living Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream by example – a dream that I was reminded of every time as a young boy walking past Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Ave.
Now the next generation is depending on us to fulfill Dr. King’s dream and ensure the promise of the American dream for them.
Steadfast and Loyal,
Allen B. West