The Diluted Truth: Racial Gerrymandering, Martin Luther King Day and Colored People

The phrase, “I don’t see color,” is problematic. For some reason people feel good, even proud when they say it.  They look to me  for some positive affirmation and I frankly can’t be bothered. “I don’t see color,” portrays you as ignorant of the experiences of minorities in general and African American specifically in the United States. It is an exit strategy to stop a conversation.

Post civil war, in a racially divided America, there were “colored people.” This term was more pleasant than darkies, not considered a racial slur and acceptable in polite conversation. The civil rights movement of the ‘60s gave way to identity politic and us colored people became,  Blacks, Negros, African Americans, and People of Color.

Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed  from the mid 1988

50 years later, data continues to highlight systematic racism and gross inequities. In the 60’s, only 3.2% of executives and senior managers in corporations were black with 95% being white and the rest other. Sad numbers since 13% of the  US population then was black. The numbers have not changed in 2021.  The forces of denial and resistance to change have spun aspirational ideals into a fictionalized reality. The “People of Color” bucket now includes everyone non-white, Asian, Asian Americans, Africans, African Americans, Native Americans and LatinX;. The corporate metrics show more than 22% of executive and senior managers are non white.

Observe the racial gerrymandering. Just expand and dilute; no one will notice and people can feel good about themselves. Monday is Martin Luther King Day. That’s been diluted too. When it became a federal holiday in 1986, many corporations introduced the concept of personal choice holidays. It sounds great, but, honestly, at the time, we knew what was up. Can’t upset the “old guard” with a holiday for a colored person. In 1994, MLK  day was designated as a national day of service.  With apologies to U.S. Sen. Harris Wolford and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, whose intent was a day of community uplift, we now have dilution; permission granted to call it National Day of Service.

I spend my Martin Luther King Day either reading King’s writings or listening to one of his speeches. For this week, see color. Think of Martin Luther King and his words.

I dream of the day when all Americans will be judged, not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


Martin Luther King Jr.



Addendum – This is the power of MLK, 63 years later, this quote, on this day.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. 


Martin Luther King, Jr., Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, 2 June 1959

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