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August 28, 2013

U.S. still needs racial progress

NORMAN — It’s been 50 years since the historic March on Washington. The march — remembered in large part because of a moving and powerful speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — was a poignant call for racial equality and programs to end poverty.

So a half-century later, the question is being asked: How much have we progressed from that era, and how much farther do we have to go?

The answer is a mixed bag. Obviously, there have been tremendous gains in the realm of racial equality in this country. That’s particularly true when it comes to the law. Racial segregation is no longer legal. The law is now a tool to promote equality, when in the past, it often posed as a barrier.

And it’s no small matter that America now has a black president. Such an occurrence would have been unthinkable in 1963.

But race in America is hardly a problem of the past. Statistically, black Americans continue to lag in virtually all economic data compared to whites. There are also gaps when it comes to education, housing and other areas considered crucial for social and economic well being.

And then there is the matter of crime. Black-on-black violence — particularly among young black men — is an epidemic in this country. It is fueled by the drug trade and a subculture that seemingly rejects the value of education and lawful conduct, and many young blacks find themselves living in a world where gang violence and short life spans are conditions to be expected.

What’s to blame for this? You can find all sorts of answers, many of them ideologically driven from the left and right. Still, they may have their aspects of truth. In many ways, government programs have lessened the need for community involvement and accountability. Throwing money at a problem does not solve it.

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