As a U of R grad (undergrad and master's in teaching) and a Rochester City School District teacher, I am disgusted by Dean Jonathan Burdick's callousness towards the crippling effects of the financial crisis on American poor and working families. In a time of stagnant wages, mortgage meltdowns, widespread un- and under-employment, and looming government cutbacks, Dean Burdick, and by extension, the U of R leadership, have declared themselves firmly on the side of Wall Street and the 1%. Too many colleges and universities hike tuition and fees every year without reason, while the big banks bleed students dry for decades after graduation with mountains of student loan debt. My wife and I both have good middle-class jobs with benefits, but we would literally be bankrupted by the kinds of sacrifices that Dean Burdick seems to think reasonable for a family like ours to pay for a school like the U of R. For the families of the working poor, like those of many Rochester City School District students, college must seem like a exorbitant fantasy. Colleges like the U of R need to stand with their students and against the Wall Street gangsters--let them make their billions in some other way. Our students' future is not for sale!
“Justice deferred is justice denied,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963. As we examine Dr. King’s legacy, can we claim that his beloved dream of justice has come true?
• Segregation: By many measures, America is more segregated now that it was Dr. King’s day. Shameful economic discrimination and income inequality have replaced legal Jim Crow. Here in our region, Buffalo and Syracuse have been in the top 10 most segregated cities by neighborhood in the country, and Rochester itself was ranked number 23 in 2009. Monroe County’s population is about 27% people of color, and yet the Rochester City School District is over 50% African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American.
• Economic injustice: Dr. King fought not only for integration, but also for jobs and housing justice for the poor, working class, and especially for people of color. Yet today less than 50% of African-Americans or Latinos are homeowners, as compared to over 70% of European-Americans. In December 2012, 14% of African-Americans and 10% of Latinos were jobless, as compared to 7% of European-Americans. In 2011, 37% of African-American children and 34% of Latino children lived in poverty; 12% of European-Americans are poor. And as the Occupy movement has highlighted, the gap between rich and poor has widened into a gulf in recent decades while the middle class continues to shrink.
• Peace and violence: Dr. King spoke out in 1967 against the “madness” of war in Vietnam, and urged the country to choose “nonviolent coexistence [over] violent co-annihilation.” Today, nearly five decades later, America’s ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have racked up charges of more than $1 trillion, not to mention claiming the lives of thousands of our brave soldiers and countless innocent children, women and men. Domestically, we reel from 61 mass shootings in the last 20 years, mourning our children murdered in schools, our friends and families gunned down in movie theaters, shopping malls, and on college campuses.
What else can we conclude but that Dr. King’s dream is still merely a dream?
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