Bernice King is not the only one who realizes that MLK’s dream has not been realized. Other prominent people also know we have a long way to go to equalized racial disparity, but it is an ongoing effort, for some kind of prejudice is within us all, for us to correct; and either task is never complete.
Co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Gary Orfield, not only claims that freedom is “probably the most fundamental American value,” but to recognize that freedom is a work in progress which is “never finished,” so, too, the freedom from prejudice is never finished.
Bernice, in her video statement, recognizes that we have not dealt with “institutionalized racism.” As legal scholar, attorney and author, Michelle Alexander points out that we are in the era of The New Jim Crow, institutionalized disparity of the African-American; additionally reinstitutionalization of the mentally challenged is a civil injustice that has accumulated more mentally ill persons in prison than in hospitals for the last five decades with little accolade since President Kennedy’s Public Law (PL 88-164, October 31, 1963), less than one month before his assissination on November 22, 1963. The 1963 Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act (PL 88-164) was not funded. Reinstitutionalization of the mentally ill followed.
Similiarly, the war on drugs was conducted on poor families in poor neighborhoods as described in the filming of the story “American Violet” They swarmed in swat teams in poor neighborhoods, rushing with weapons as if at war as in the movie based on Regina Kelly’s unjust arrest. It was the war on drugs, where counties were awarded by the number of arrests.
Eric Holder, to limit disparity in drug sentencing, said a prosecutor must NOT allow the amount of the illicit drug in the trial, because the disparity in sentencing is based on the amount. Many organizations like FAMM and the Sentencing Project call that a victory, but warn that it must be made more permanent by legislation. Other disparities in drug sentencing have been reckoned, even retroactivlly.
When you can imagine that racial disparity regarding drugs, then you can imagine the poor white or African-American in search for mental health treatment. The only alternative was and is to be “Sentenced to Treatment” because treatment is often too late.
“A recent study that the Vera Institute of Justice conducted with a number of public health and criminal justice agencies in Washington, D.C., found that almost half of those entering Department of Corrections custody had an indication of mental illness, yet of that group, the jail identified only 46 percent as needing services. …
The tragic suicides are indicative of deeper rooted problems that stem from the desperate condition of publicly funded mental health care in the United States. In this context, jails have become the poorly suited service providers of last resort for people who fall through publicly funded safety nets. JIM PARSONS, New York, Aug. 21, 2013. The writer is director of the Substance Use and Mental Health Program at the Vera Institute of Justice.”
It seems the disparity is deep and wide, from The New Jim Crow, the war on drugs, to mental health care, to equal opportunity for voting rights; many have proclaimed that the “dream” is far from realized. The quest for equality and the dream continues and the people at Washington today may honor a memory, but we must act as if MLK were here today because life and the quality of life depends on much needed reform, as much or more, now as then.