The Distance That Remains

Although blacks and Jews have made strides recently, there's a long way to go to fulfill Martin Luther King's vision of unity.

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In 1997, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding conducted the first national poll ever taken on the state of black/Jewish relations in the United States. The poll revealed that African Americans and Jews agree far more than they differ. A majority of African Americans and Jews say the relationship between the two communities has improved in recent years.

In a sense, we have come full circle from the days when Dr. King admonished in his book Strive Toward Freedom, "May the people of race in America soon make hearts burn.." For, while we can readily acknowledge the long way American society has come since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, we should not yet assume that the road to justice and equality is finally free of resistance and barriers.

Life in the United States is now calmer and safer for blacks and Jews than it was four decades ago; both groups enjoy unprecedented access to power and affluence and greater acceptance in the broader society.

But we must persistently and knowingly measure the distance we have traveled, and not mistake that or the distance that remains. And we must always remember that the battle for human rights us a common one and a mutual one, a battle which, since it is defined by the very word "human," demands that all of us put our collective shoulders to the wheel of decency.

In this way we can -- together -- achieve that most grand of goals: a world no longer tarnished by the slanders of bigotry or the disturbances of intolerance. A world, in other words, ver much like the one envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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