Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream a half-century later

Fifty years ago this week, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered perhaps the greatest speech of the 20th century. President Barack Obama will stand near the same spot Wednesday and honor the anniversary by addressing similar themes of unequal treatment and racial divides, issues this nation still wrestles with today. Tremendous progress has been made between the eras of the March on Washington and the nation's first black president, but King's dream of equality has yet to be fully realized.

King's speech lasted less than 20 minutes. The most memorable lines were not part of the written text, and the speech did not receive lasting acclaim until after the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968. Yet it remains a defining moment in American history, and the urgency of its plea for freedom for all still resonates even as circumstances have changed.

In 1963 America, most African-Americans still could not exercise the right to vote or send their children to integrated public schools. King spoke that day of limited mobility because blacks could not find hotel accommodations, of routine police brutality and of "For Whites Only" signs. In St. Petersburg, it had been only a year since the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets first stayed in integrated hotels during spring training.

Florida and the nation have made great strides since then, and younger generations of all races cannot imagine such institutionalized racism sanctioned by law or common custom. The overt discriminatory barriers that King cited have since been eliminated by federal and state law as well as local ordinances. Diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation is less feared and more valued as a strength. But broader issues of inequality that King alluded to a half-century ago have yet to be overcome.

The Great Recession hit black Americans particularly hard, and the difference in unemployment rates between white and black workers has not narrowed in 50 years. Today's unemployment rate is 6.6 percent for whites but 12.6 percent for blacks. The income gap between white and black families has widened, and the achievement gap between white and black students remains stubborn.

Unlike 1963, black Floridians now hold seats in Congress and the Legislature. Yet state policies in a number of areas have a disproportionate impact on black residents. Defendants who invoke the "stand your ground" law to avoid prosecution are more likely to go free if the victim is black. Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature refuse to embrace the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicaid — and black Floridians are less likely than white residents to have health coverage. The governor intends to again purge the voter rolls, and that could have a disproportionate impact on minorities and low-income residents if not carefully carried out.

The 50th anniversary of King's speech is a moment to celebrate his life's work and reflect on the nation's progress toward racial equality. It is also a time to recognize the work left to be done and to recommit to the ideals he so passionately embraced.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17