A television journalist told audience members at the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet Celebration on Saturday that America must become culturally diverse to survive in the 21st century.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized three decades ago that the most alarming emergency for minorities was an economic one, broadcast journalist Tony Brown said Saturday in Lawrence.
Speaking to an audience of about 300 people during the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet Celebration, Brown seized on the civil rights leader's concerns, saying blacks and other minorities must gain a stronghold in the business world to survive.
"We don't live in a world of black and white, believe me," said Brown, host since 1970 of the PBS public affairs program "Tony Brown's Journal." "We're now in a world of haves and have-nots. And the haves are doing everything they can to keep the have-nots where they are."
From a podium at the Kansas Union Ballroom at Kansas University, Brown said racism must die for the United States to prosper in the 21st-century world economic market.
He likened the U.S. workforce to a sporting team whose biggest weakness was over-reliance on white men for skilled jobs, when most new workers will be women or minorities after the year 2000.
Businesses, he said, must give jobs to the most qualified employees.
"If somebody can't score," he said, "they can't play on the team."
Employees also must put aside their differences, he said.
"Because if we don't work together to make better widgets for Company A, you and I will not be able to put food on the table," he said. "We must stop letting ourselves indulge in this perverted luxury of not getting along with each other."
Brown said the 21st-century business world would be high-tech, global in scope and keyed to information access. To compete, he said, blacks must do a better job of educating themselves in high-tech fields. He pointed out that last year, only a handful of America's 30 million blacks obtained doctorate degrees in physics.
He called for a change in attitudes, saying blacks must stop blaming racism or whites for their lack of power.
"Racism is unfair. So what? It gets cold, and that's not fair," he said. "It rains, and that's not fair either. You just get an umbrella."
He said that developing strong cultural pride was a keystone for black empowerment.
"We've had no cultural training to say, 'This hair, these big noses and these thick lips are all right,'" he said.
Brown's speech followed remarks from Sharon Goolsby, president of the Lawrence Alliance of Black School Educators; Dan Wildcat, Haskell Indian Nations University; and Mike Kautsch, dean of the KU journalism school.
Brown urged the audience to follow King's teachings and try to make a difference.
"This country is at each other's throats, and it's not because whites hate blacks or blacks hate whites," he said. "Our enemy is our inability to be moral. Our enemy is our inability to be the Martin Luther Kings within us."