By Ryan Solomon
News and Information Services
Martin Luther King Jr. should be thought of as an economist as much as a minister or civil rights leader, says economist and writer Julianne Malveaux.
Malveaux spoke at the closing ceremony marking the U-M’s sixth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium.
The San Francisco Sun reporter, who received her Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told about 200 persons gathered at the Power Center for the Performing Arts that King did not become a threat to society until he questioned the capitalist economic system.
Malveaux talked about how the current economic system has pitted races and ethnic groups against each other.
“The greatest violent act, I think, in this country right now is the organization of our economic system. It seems to me that it’s violent for 10 million people to be unemployed … that it’s violent to have one-third of the Black population live in poverty.”
She said economic violence helped fuel the Los Angeles riots. It also contributes to hatred between Koreans and Blacks in Los Angeles and to the tensions between Hasidic Jews and Blacks in New York City’s Crown Heights neighborhood.
Malveaux said King envisioned an economic system that would move from predatory to compassionate capitalism. As an example, she said skinheads would be less likely to vent their anger against people of color if they had greater economic opportunities. “Give people jobs and they won’t have time to hate.”
Malveaux also spoke of the current bombing of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces, which she said has produced a silent goodwill among Arab nations for Saddam Hussein. Hussein may be crazy, she said, but she expressed doubt that bombing Iraq would increase his sanity.
“We sit around and tell young people ‘work your problems out,’ and then we go bomb somebody.”
Malveaux will watch newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton to see that he fulfills his campaign promises, among them dealing with the enormous budget deficit that is draining resources away from job training programs and other programs that invest in people. She also said Clinton owes much of who he is and where he is today to the civil rights movement.
“The civil rights movement in many ways opened doors not only for African American people but also for what Bill Clinton was, working-class white.”