Stephen Goldstein: 50 years later, Florida remains ‘separate and unequal’
Image via AP.

After years of race riots in major cities, President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 established the Kerner Commission, shorthand for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. He wanted to know their causes and how to prevent them.

Released in 1968, the report concluded, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal” — the major cause: White racism.

In 1998, “The Millennium Breach” and “Locked in the Poorhouse,” two reports published to mark the 30th anniversary of the Kerner Report, concluded our “racial divide” was worse. “The Millennium Breach” stated bluntly, “there is more poverty in America, it is deeper, blacker and browner than before, and it is more concentrated in the cities, which have become America’s poorhouses.”

Today, nearly 50 years after Kerner, little has changed, too much has not. Electing our first biracial president has only stoked racial tension. And nowhere are we more “separate and unequal” than in Florida.

But relentlessly, Florida promoters want to seduce others with the “bling” of “The American Dream-Can-Be-Yours” concocted in developers’ marketing brochures. In them, silhouetted palm trees framing picture-perfect sunsets vie with ocean-front hi-rise condos and gated communities’ McMansions.

In this Florida, we “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” — on pain of being blackballed from the country club.

The other Florida is “The Dream Deferred,” the real Florida, a nightmare, no pretty pictures. As of August 2013, even after Obamacare, Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured residents under 65, an estimated 3.8 million (about 25 percent of the population).

In 2013, there were an estimated 139,667 homeless children in the state, the 33rd worst rate in the country. About 969,000 Florida children were living in poverty. That was 24 percent in 2013 and 35th worst in the nation.

In the same year, the U.S. Census ranked Florida 42nd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per pupil spending for elementary and secondary education.

Politicians and business leaders entice companies to move to Florida because it is a “right-to-work” state. But they neglect to mention how many workers are trapped in low-paying jobs with few, if any, benefits. The state’s minimum wage is $7.79 an hour, but someone would have to earn $19.14 to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

In 2012, the database of the National Coalition for the Homeless listed Florida as the most dangerous in the nation for homeless people because of the number of reported hate crimes. And that was long before the City of Fort Lauderdale became infamous for passing draconian measures to stop outdoor feedings of those living on its streets.

From the results of this year’s election, it would appear that nationwide and in Florida “bling” is winning. By a scant majority, voters elected or re-elected people who will put on a happy face.

But the question is for how long can dreams be deferred without consequences? Nationwide, the country is on a collision course with history and the morality of “all men are created equal.”

The 2016 election is likely to be a vote on the issues raised in the Kerner Report, perhaps our last best hope of facing harsh reality — and doing something about it.

Before it’s too late, let’s hope enough voters heed Abraham Lincoln’s warning that “A house divided against itself cannot stand” — or rue the day they didn’t.

Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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