by Cedric Ricks, Communications Associate, and Jorge Soto, Public Policy Associate, National Fair Housing Alliance
“All life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., December 19, 1963.
Nearly half a century ago these powerful words typified the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today, they are the cornerstone for a civil rights legacy that not only fights for racial justice in education, employment and housing, but for fairness for everyone facing injustice and discrimination.
King would be 84 if alive today. It is important that we invoke his legacy as the nation prepares to honor his birth with a federal holiday.
His ideals live on and are an active part of American culture - they provide a framework for measuring equality and justice in our society. King’s assassination spurred Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, one week after his death. The Act was created in the aftermath of riots across the country in protest against substandard living conditions in segregated African-American communities. It was designed to end residential segregation and promote racial integration – two goals that continue today.
The legislation also offered protections to millions of Americans who faced discrimination in housing based on their religion, skin color or national origin. Since the Fair Housing Act’s inception, protections have been extended to address sex discrimination and the challenges people with disabilities and families with children encounter when looking for suitable housing. We are at a crossroads - where public opinion supports addressing poverty in meaningful ways and the inevitable expansion of LGBT rights. Ending housing discrimination for poor and LGBT people is our next step toward achieving full fair housing.