Opinion: Freedoms in our country have not been shared equally

·4 min read
Supporters raise signs that read, "Honor King: End Racism" during a prayer service at the Freedom Center during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018.
Supporters raise signs that read, "Honor King: End Racism" during a prayer service at the Freedom Center during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018.

As we continue to weather the pandemic, the disparities of health, wealth, education, and economic mobility are profound. This has been consistent throughout the past two years as COVID-19 continues to ravage communities, affecting us all – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, the wealthy and the poor, the educated and under-educated, and the employed, under employed and unemployed are all tied together. It is evident, therefore, that our collective freedoms are inextricably bound together. Just as we will grapple with how best to mitigate COVID in our collective future, we must also mitigate the racism that has existed in our country since its inception.

These disparities have always existed in our country, but over the past two years, these inequities have been illuminated by the pandemic. Historically, due to racism and racist policies, freedoms in our country have not been shared equally.

For example, the comparatively low rate of homeownership by Black Americans can be traced to the racist policy of redlining. The lack of Black homeownership is directly attributed to the wealth gap that exists between whites and Blacks. This has created an enduring, generational wealth inequality.

The health gap that exists for Blacks is complex but is due, in part, to a lack of participation. However, the lack of participation is attributed to a lack of trust in the system. This distrust of the health care system can be directly connected to experiments such as at Tuskegee and the Cincinnati General Hospital.

Martin Luther King Jr's messages on equality, unity and perseverance will be celebrated throughout Greater Cincinnati on Monday.
Martin Luther King Jr's messages on equality, unity and perseverance will be celebrated throughout Greater Cincinnati on Monday.

The public education system continues to be highly segregated and unequal. Even though, in 1954, the Supreme Court sought to reverse the inequity by ruling in Brown v. Board of Education; seven decades later, it is evident that educational achievement based on graduation rates, standardized test scores, and college or vocational readiness show that our schools remain segregated and unequal.

There is very strong evidence that employment opportunities and economic mobility are directly related to where you live. Simply stated, the evidence supports that if someone grows up in a racially segregated Black neighborhood, their economic mobility will be significantly lower than that of someone who grew up in a white neighborhood.

In order to meaningfully impact these issues, there must be a deeper understanding of the history of real freedom. It is through this deeper understanding that we will come to recognize that all of our freedoms are bound together. When we have eradicated these evident disparities, our collective freedom will be realized.

There are policies and practices that can diminish and ultimately eliminate the disparities that exist in health, wealth, education and economic mobility. Access to quality pre-K education is proven to raise educational achievement across all lines. Access to affordable, quality health care will build trust and develop a more robust health care system. By investing in affordable housing trust funds, we can create integrated neighborhoods and put people on the path to homeownership, upward economic mobility and create generational wealth.

Just as we are bound together by the pandemic, we are also bound together by our history. We must come to grips with the generational trauma of racism and racist practices and policies. We are a coalition of people bound together as a nation – as Americans. To solve the rift of racism will take a renewed courage. We as Americans have always been courageous. We have courageously stood up to tyranny and oppression throughout history. And now is the time to be more courageous than ever. In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must "lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood."

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition invites everyone to join us on MLK Day, Jan. 17, for our 47th annual events to honor Dr. King and continue to spread his messages of freedom and equality. The MLK Day Commemorative March will begin at the Freedom Center at 10:30 a.m. It will proceed directly to Washington Park for the closing interfaith prayer service at approximately 11:15 a.m.

The MLK Day Commemorative Program will only be available virtually, at www.mlkcoalition.org. Music Hall will not be open to patrons. The program will air live, beginning at noon. The recorded program will be available on the website after it concludes, through January.

Raffel Prophett is president of the MLK Coalition of Cincinnati. George TenEyck is a member of the MLK Coalition of Cincinnati.

Raffel Prophett
Raffel Prophett
George TenEyck
George TenEyck

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Freedoms in our country have not been shared equally

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting