Headlines from the New York Times for Friday, March 30, 2018
When the Dream of Economic Justice Died
(The following is an excerpt of an editorial by Wendi Thomas in the New York Times.)
The 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4 should have been an opportunity for the nation — and especially those who live in the city where he was killed — to reckon with the issue that he died fighting for: the right of workers to earn a living wage.
But for that reckoning to happen, we must acknowledge that the economic system and political structures that perpetuated poverty then are still in force now. And that the people who keep workers poor still too often get a pass.
In the last years of his life, with Jim Crow in retreat, Dr. King turned to what he labeled the three evils — poverty, militarism and racism — that kept black people in bondage. In 1968, he was planning the Poor People’s Campaign when black ministers invited him to Memphis to show support for about 1,300 black sanitation workers who had gone on strike after years of low wages and poor working conditions.
Yet Memphis today is a stark reminder of how much of Dr. King’s dream we’ve ignored. And in a way, Loeb Properties is an example of how little has changed. Instead of radical redistribution, we have yet another generation of Loebs poised to profit from low-wage labor. And local government is helping them do just that: Last year, Loeb Properties received a $6.1 million tax incentive to build a boutique hotel.
The project will create 65 jobs, 45 of which will be in housekeeping and food service and will have an average base pay of less than $20,000 a year. Economic vitality for the Loebs means hardship for these hotel workers, most of whom are likely to be African-American, since the city is nearly two-thirds black. Every time I see a Loeb Properties “For Lease” sign — and there are dozens across the city — I remember those underpaid black laundresses. And I am angry for the hotel workers who will be underpaid.
Is there any wonder that the black-white wealth gap has only widened since the Great Recession? Or that the income gap in the Memphis region has barely budged? Or that campaigns such as Fight for $15, which has raised wages for millions of workers but has stalled in many places, are necessary? Or that the new Poor People’s Campaign is as urgently needed today as the one Dr. King was planning just before he was killed?
It was Dr. King who said: “Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice.” What have we done with Dr. King’s sacrifice? Too little.
Inequality is created and maintained by those who benefit from the labor of underpaid workers. Those people have names. Their names should be known.
Readings from the Gospel of John for Friday, March 30, 2018
John 8 tells the story of a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. In the male dominated society of her day, the man apparently went free and left the woman to face the consequences.
Jesus’ response to the woman should bring hope to us all, male and female. He didn’t condemn her. Rather, he restored her and gave her an opportunity for a full and meaningful life.
As a man whose entire career has been in a church, it is instructive to me that Jesus did have some strong words for the church crowd. In fact, as I read the Gospels, I realize that generally the only ones who got tough words from Jesus were the religious authorities.
I love telling broken people that Jesus loves them. He loves preachers, too. However, he has to speak harshly to preachers in order to get us to listen.
Prayers for Friday, March 30, 2018
Dear God, please help us to listen to you and to receive your best in our lives.