Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 92 years old this Friday, January 15th. Much has changed in these United States since he was so violently taken from us in 1968, but much remains the same.
And while all Americans should be proud of the gains made toward racial justice since the late 1960s, it is painfully clear to see by the January 6th events at our nation’s Capitol that white supremacy still has a powerful hold on many Americans, and it still threatens our democracy.
We celebrate Dr. King’s birthday each year since his life’s work provides the nation a way out of the chaos of white supremacy and toward the beloved community offered by a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democracy.
But for Dr. King, the beloved community was blocked by racism and economic exploitation, which he saw as interconnected, stating, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will ‘thingify’ them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically.”
For King, racism and economic exploitation were part of the structures of society that were enacted through various institutions (i.e., political, economic, education, family, criminal justice, etc.), and they created a pattern, or “curious formula.”
King saw this “curious formula” dating back to the writing of the Constitution in 1787, where a black person was defined as 60% of a human being when determining taxation and representation. According to King, this initial principle led to a “curious formula” where Blacks received one-half of the good things in life, and two times the bad, when compared to Whites.
This curious formula was the reality in 1968, when King was murdered, and sadly, it is the reality today in these United States, and more specifically for us in Silicon Valley.
And while there are probably not many in Silicon Valley who would support the violent actions taken this past week by the white extremist organizations in Washington D.C., institutionalized racism still dominates most of our institutions as is demonstrated by the MLK infographic presented by Silicon Valley Pain Index.
In dramatic color images of King, the infographic shows the curious formula’s consistent pattern where our institutions provide Blacks (and other people of color) one-half of the good things in life, and two times the bad.
The hope is that this MLK Infographic will lead Silicon Valley residents, businesses, non-profits, governments, and policymakers to examine our institutions to eliminate the “curious formula.” As King said, “an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” and the “whole structure must be changed.”
Dr. King often said that the choice is between chaos or community. The choice is still ours.
Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton is a Professor of Sociology at San José State University and creator of Silicon Valley Pain Index.