I watched my social media stream yesterday with an eye of intrigue. It seemed like everyone was eager to post the “I have a Dream” speech to their Facebook Wall or their Twitter stream. And as I watched on with delight, I began to wonder, Has Martin Luther King really seen The DREAM come to fullness?
It’s easy to make the claim that Dr. King’s work in American changed race relations forever. After all, there’s no more segregated bathrooms, no more segregated schools, no more illegal tenant discrimination in apartment buildings, Right?
Or, has Dr. King’s work become so iconic, that many will hijack his message every January to seem as though they really care?
The recent term used in the social media world is called “Slacktivism.” Basically the concept is that we will post anything that enhances our online social profile to seem like we are attentive to the social issues of the day.
Most notably we see campaigns like Invisible Children who highlight child trafficking in Uganda. The story is compelling and tugs at the heart-strings of anyone who watches the videos, but how many people actually are trying to make a difference in the Ugandan rain forests where the culprit Joseph Koney actually lives? Students post, tweet, and instagram the message which gives them an illusory feeling of ‘doing something’ to raise awareness, but what’s actually the result on the ground?
Another case this year that seemed to actually do something was the “Ice Bucket Challenge” raising awareness for ALS. Probably the most successful social media campaign in history, people who took the Ice Bucket Challenge video themselves being doused with Ice Water and posting it to their social media platforms. Then they invited their friends to do the same.
The last estimates of the ALS campaign I read, were that it helped raise awareness and raise over $40 Million USD for the cause.
I suppose if raising incredible amounts of money is the goal, this would be the peak of social consciousness. But what is actually being done? Is ALS closer to being resolved in the world, or have we funded another campaign that makes us feel good about raising awareness for another awful disease?
The Day after MLK day, I just want to ask myself (and you) what really changed? Are we content to live in a world where we post social messages but still allow a great divide in American to continue?
When we post those photos, quotes, and videos of one of the most iconic leaders in America, have we really allowed the message to penetrate our souls? Have our spheres of influence changed to be less about the created narrative of “Us vs. Them” according to skin color, or did we just use the day to profile how social aware we are?
It seems like although we are a long way from the days Dr. King marched in Selma, we still have a lot of issues to focus on to actually create equality in America.
The National Urban League issued a report last March which shed some light on equality in America. The annual report, called “One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America,” noted that the underemployment rate for African-American workers was 20.5 percent, compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. Underemployment is defined as those who are jobless or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work.
According to the US Census Bureau, in the last 40 years the average household salary has only increased in African American homes by $4K to a medium average of $33,718 USD. Their Caucasian counterparts have a median income of $55,412 USD. That’s a $22K difference.
Some might say, “Well it’s an educational divide.” And that might be right. According to a recent study of American Schools, Black Demographics reports, 82 percent of schools that are more than 50% Black have recorded at least one violent crime compared to 77% of majority Hispanic schools and 71% of majority White schools. How can we expect our students to learn in an environment where violence is the norm and not the exception?
After a tidal wave of “I have a Dream” yesterday, can we really assume that we are on the road to eliminate the racial divide in America? Or, are we doomed to continue the history of division?
My point is this, We have a lot of work to do in light of a wonderful leader in Dr. King. And I for one, want to pay as much attention to “The Day After,” as a I do to the social media campaigns on “The Day.”