by Dr. David Sanders
Martin Luther King often used economic metaphors to drive home the plight of African American citizens. He said that those who gathered at the Lincoln Monument to hear his I Have a Dream speech had come to the nation’s capital to “cash a check.” King went on to say that “America had given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.””
George Floyd and a friend entered Cup Foods with counterfeit $20 bills. The police were summoned and less than 20 minutes later Floyd lay dead under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin. This week, a jury of his peers found Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd. What led to Mr. Floyd’s death? Insufficient funds.
There are two types of poverty. George Floyd grew up in the poverty we call material.
The other poverty is what Bobby Kennedy called the poverty of “satisfaction, purpose and dignity.” Kennedy warned back in 1968 that when the accumulation of material things takes precedence over compassion we will indeed be an impoverished nation.
Compassion is at the core of the Tree of Life. A just society works to ensure that all that dwell within it have equal access to satisfaction, purpose and dignity. To protect a way of life, the dominant caste will try to maintain their privilege at the expense of the subordinate caste (from Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste). The solution to dismantling this hierarchy does not lie in counterfeit aggrandizement of the material—in the promise that all can live the “American Dream.” It is rather in a dream for all to find satisfaction and purpose and it starts with treating everyone with dignity. The last time I checked there is sufficient funds for that. Start the printing presses. Harriet Tubman has been waiting too long.