By Kodey Toney
The Power of Equality
We recently celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As that day rolled by some enjoyed their day off from work and school while others moved on as if it were just another day. I began to think about what Dr. King was really trying to accomplish before his life was tragically cut short by bigotry and fear.
While King may be happy with the way things have played out in recent years I’m sure he would not be satisified with the amount of prejudice that still exists in the world. Let’s not kid ourselves, there is still racism toward African Americans in the world. The issue lies in other cultures and groups as well.
That same fear and ignorance is seen in the disability world. I’ve written several times about the civil rights of those with developmental disabilities. This is something that became more apparent when I was presenting by “mock” bill to the state legislators recently. The bill was actually introduced in recent years to the state congress but got lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy.
The reason behind this bill is what was shocking to me. It seems that in the 1930s the government was working to help increase employment for military veterans with disabilities, so they put into place an act that would allow employers to hire these men first and receive a tax cut and incentive plan. This was a great idea at the time. Along the way there was a section added that would allow employers to also hire individuals with developmental disabilities with the same perks.
This sounds like a good plan, however, many of those would be, and still are, employed for less than minimum wage. You see, the act has a clause where employers can be hired with a certificate from the Department of Labor for sub-minimum wages. This has its ups and downs, but the real problem is that some people are being exploited. Employees can be paid as little as one penny per hour. This is rare, but it is possible.
I’m only giving this as an example of the inequality still being shown in the world.
Dr. King had a dream, and, while much of that dream has come to light, there is still a lot that continues to be a visionary fantasy. We are still looking for equality in the classrooms and throughout our schools, in healthcare, and in employment.
I found it fitting that President Obama was sworn in using Dr. King’s bible as well as one used by Abraham Lincoln. Especially appropriate is the fact that this is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where King delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Lincoln believed that “all” men were created equal. While he was borrowing from the Declaration of Independence, it is that search for fairness that we, as parents of children with disabilities need to continue to strive for in this nation.
I’m not trying to downplay the plight of African Americans and the tragedy they have had to overcome. I’m trying to explain that there is not equality in the world, despite what many want to believe. We have to work to change things for the future of our children and others struggling.