Tragic deaths and riots in Baltimore and Ferguson show that America has lost sight of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesson of the power of non-violent social change, the former head of the NAACP said Friday.
“We’ve all failed the legacy of Dr. King,” said Ben Jealous, who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 2008 to 2012.
He said King was committed not just to freedom and justice for African-Americans, but to a better life for economically struggling Americans of all backgrounds. “He was killed and we didn’t pick up the ball,” Jealous said.
Jealous was in San Diego to speak to nonprofit leaders at a meeting organized by San Diego Grantmakers. He is now senior partner at Kapor Capital, an Oakland-based venture fund that leverages the tech sector to create progressive social change.
Three of Kapor’s startups are designed to provide a better education for inner-city children in hopes of preventing future social problems:
- Newsela, a website designed to aid reading comprehension
- No Red Ink for helping teach grammar
- Front Row Education for mathematics instruction
Turning to the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, Jealous said police have always focused on the latest groups to assimilate into American society, which are now African-Americans and Hispanics.
“Every ethnic group, at some time in its history, has been disproportionately bullied by the cops,” he said, warning that heavy police pressure has turned some economically depressed areas into “reservations for the poor.”
San Diego, with its diverse population, and tension between extreme wealth and poverty, is well placed to both experience and attempt to solve America’s problems.
“San Diego is right on the cutting edge of where this country is headed,” he said. “I’m here to talk but I’m also here to be inspired.”
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