On this day in which we honor an iconic modern-day saint, I wanted to reflect a bit on race in America. It is true that we have made strides towards equality, and that in many places racist attitudes and stereotypes are simply no longer acceptable. I, like many other Americans, am very excited to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as our 44th president.
Although we have made steps forward, much work remains to be done. There are still too many structures and institutions that inhibit human flourishing, especially among minorities. A very telling statistic is that, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2007, 24.5% of the Black population and 21.5% of the (somewhat inaccurately identified) Hispanic population live in poverty. This is compared to the 8.2% of the White population. While poverty is simply unacceptable for any racial or ethnic group (or person for that matter) in a land with so much wealth, I find it disconcerting that of the 37 million people in the US who suffer in such circumstances, Blacks and Hispanics are so disproportionately represented. We must pray and work against the unjust systems and structures that perpetuate discrimination.
So I conclude with a verse from the Bible to which Dr. King himself frequently alluded: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Amen.