GUEST COMMENTARY: Remembering King's questions, confronting elite answers

2014-03-04T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Remembering King's questions, confronting elite answersBy Thandabantu Iverson nwitimes.com
March 04, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Now that we have witnessed the 2014 round of commemorations proclaiming America and Northwest Indiana firmly on the road to Martin Luther King's dream, those who want to make the dream real must pursue his true activism.  

King's book, “Where Do We Go from Here?” provides an excellent model for public officials, social justice activists and workers fighting for living-wage jobs and training such as in Northwest Indiana. King courageously posed questions about the purpose and direction of Civil Rights in the uncertain days of 1967. Conditions in urban ghettos of Chicago and Watts pushed King to question persistent joblessness, disillusionment, and the indifference and hypocrisy of economic and political elites. King identified three evils — poverty, racis, and militarism — as standing in the way of building “the beloved community."

In King’s beloved community, poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, bigotry and discrimination will not be tolerated, because wealth and resources will be shared. In the spirit of King, we must continue to fight for a successful community benefits agreement for living-wage jobs; job training and workforce development for unemployed and underemployed men and women in 14 of Northwest Indiana's most impoverished communities.

Despite diligent efforts of Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations/Jobs Coalition for more than two years, the Regional Development Authority still refuses to sign a CBA that provides 30 percent of man-hours paid on publicly funded projects.

Meanwhile, our local and regional public officials make public pretense for job creation, but routinely cut "public-private" deals that leave out real community benefits for real jobs and blatantly ignore public interest. The only guarantees are windfall benefits to private corporations and financiers, and ultimate burdening of citizens with more debt, when financiers bail-out.

Holding up the market as the best means of solving community development challenges, “privatization” has become the "answer" of elites and many who support elite visions of economic futures. Several decades of evidence indicate the profiteering ways of "the market" have done little to end persistent joblessness and empower poor and working families in disparaged communities.

Considering the price paid by King and thousands who died in the civil rights struggle, it is unconscionable to continue to pursue economic justice, democracy and environmental sustainability without questioning the present grave economic inequalities and links to political compromise and betrayals of the public interest.

We must embrace our human and civil rights to good jobs and a trained workforce that leads to good quality of life. Promoting and accepting anything less than a regional community benefits agreement for jobs and training will mean an immoral and corrupt betrayal for all those for who dream of King’s dream.

Thandabantu Iverson is a labor studies professor at Indiana University Northwest and a member of Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations/Jobs Coalition. The opinions are the writer's.

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