COMMENTARY | In a small locally owned barber shop called The Montbello Barbers, LLC in Denver, an organization of men called BST, or Barbershop Talk, meets two times a month to discuss controversial topics; mostly recently it was of civil rights.
The conversation was timely. Aug. 28 marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech and the men in the barber shop still feel as if there is a growing disparity in their community between blacks, Latinos and whites -- yes in 2013. Good jobs for minorities are still hard to acquire and the lure of success plagues the men who are grasping for anything to help pay the bills.
The civil rights battle in 1963 was a fight for equal opportunities, jobs and homes. And let’s not forget the legal consideration to be classified as 100 percent human with the full right to vote without discrimination.
Earlier this year, I-News Network, the public-service journalism arm of Rocky Mountain PBS, analyzed six decades of demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau and found that the pressures these men were feeling are more than justified and all but fiction. Seven years after King delivered his speech, black families were earning roughly 73 percent of what whites earned at that time, Latinos earned 2 percent less than blacks. However, as of three years ago, blacks’ earnings have dropped about 13 percent.
Economics aside, today, blacks are still targets of hate and bigotry. The FBI hate crime statistics of 2011 reported that 3,465 single-bias hate crime offenses were racially motivated. Out of those 3,465 offenses about 72.0 percent were anti-black motivated and 16.7 for anti-white biases.
So, why is the term “civil rights” today such a thorn in the sides of young black men? Because anytime a man can get away with murdering a 17-year-old black teen, the law is most definitely tipped to one side, and it’s not the side of blacks.
Civil rights are rights that protect individual freedoms and, today, per the I-News Network’s Losing Ground series, blacks and Latinos do not have the same freedoms as whites. School district monies are not allocated fairly to support the needs of students living in the inner cities. Home ownership has been corrupt for decades; the housing bubble of the last decade proved as much. Graduation rates in 2010 for blacks were roughly 19.5 percent. Latino graduation rates were 6.5 percent lower than blacks compared to 42.5 percent of whites.
I-News Network spent countless hours crunching numbers from various Colorado Census records magnifying the unfortunate truth of the black condition. Blacks and Latinos are worse off today than in the ‘50s and ‘60s, a reality that most American minorities fail to believe. I’ve heard anger toward city and local elects for allowing this to happen, but the truth is we all have a responsibility for our failure, by accepting the crumbs that have fallen from the table of entitlement then actually fighting over it.
Rather than taking the responsibility and continue the fighting as they did during earlier times, minority gains made during the 1960s and 1970s have eroded with time. Today, we have a black president, and some black senators, judges, councilmen. There are a few black millionaires, lawyers, and more white- and blue-collar workers than ever before. Yet our poverty in the nation is 27 percent for blacks, 25 percent for Latinos and 11 percent for whites as of 2010, according to I-News Network.
But with all of the money in the world, we can’t seem to buy unity. So who’s to blame you ask? Someone has to be held responsible, right? Personally, I think the responsibility relies on us as humans. It’s time that we cease and desist with the hate and violence and begin to look inward and begin to compare the struggles from yesterday with the struggles of today, take inventory of our accomplishments and re-align ourselves with the needs to foster relationships that will promote a true civilization.
We cannot negate what accomplishments the civil rights movement has afforded us. Nevertheless, humans around the world are suffering. I-News Network’s series indicates only the struggles we have right here in Colorado. But what if we crunch numbers in other cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, or in states like New York or even the country’s capital, Washington, D.C.? What would we find? What about Africa and the disparities there versus other countries?
Asking these questions is the first step toward liberation and freeing our children from the same fates we suffer with today.
Quincy Hines is the Western Regional Director of Barbershop Talk. More at JoinBST.com.
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