In the 21st Century, segregation is still an issue

While organizations work to overcome lasting racial issues, government turns a blind eye

Macek is a junior journalism major and Editor in Chief of The Spectator. Macek can be reached at [email protected] or @KatherineMacek.

Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and gave a speech about his dreams to see integration between different cultures of the United States.

Since then, Americans have fought to see those dreams realized.

In 2014, we still have a long way to go.

On Friday evening I attended the Random Acts of Theater Company, also known as RATCo, performance in Zorn Arena at UW-Eau Claire. My friends told me about the event, that it would be “a great performance,” but nothing more.

I expected to have a good time, but I didn’t expect to become so informed about the terrible problems that still exist concerning poverty and racism right here in our own country.

RATCo, as it turns out, is an organization from Selma, Ala., that provides a safe and educational environment for children of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities to   learn about teamwork and self-expression in the form of theater and dance.

They are funded by the Freedom Foundation and team up with Blugold Beginnings to stay in Eau Claire and share their story with the community.
Gwen Brown, president of the Freedom Foundation, serves as a mentor and volunteer for RATCo, which she strongly believes in.

“Every day we’re encouraged and inspired, because there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t seem right,” she said. “But I think we believe in the fundamental principle that we can overcome anything by doing good and loving.”

The population of Selma is just over 20,000 and around 80 percent of that is made up of black citizens, but Brown said the public school system is almost 100 percent black and there is a separate private school that white students attend.

One elementary school out of eight is integrated, and many of its citizens live in poverty.

According to the Freedom Foundation website, 43.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. The national average is 14.9 percent.
To me, this sounded like something straight out of the ’60s.

Maybe I’ve been living in my own little bubble up here in Wisconsin, but I was surprised and saddened to hear that situations like this still exist in my own country.

We haven’t come very far at all, and I think Martin Luther King Jr. would be disappointed if he knew this was still happening over forty years later.

Brown said RATCo is a source of hope and love for the children in Selma, to show them there is more to life than the segregated and impoverished community that they grew up in.

Currently, RATCo and the Freedom Foundation are working to fund the revamp of Tipper’s Theatre, an old building in Selma.

They hope to one day be able to use the theatre to perform, Brown said, and also hope to house a café in the building where young people can come and hang out, something Selma doesn’t have very much of.

According to the White House website, the United States budget for the Department of Defense in the 2014 Fiscal Year is $495.6 billion, which includes ending the war in Afghanistan and “maintaining a small force of Americans and international partners to train and assist Afghan forces and carry out limited counterterrorism operations in pursuit of any remnants of al Qaeda,” among other things.

I understand that ties with other countries are important, but the safety and well-being of a nation’s own people should always be a bigger concern than foreign investments, no matter the color of its citizens’ skin.

It hurts my heart that our country, a nation that pledges liberty and justice for all, spends more money overseas than it does bettering the people that already live here.