In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared with the world his dream of a colorblind society — one that focuses on his children’s character, not on their complexion. America has come closer to realizing King’s vision. But segregation and discrimination remain.

The personal-finance website WalletHub measured the gaps between blacks and whites across 23 indicators of equality and integration in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The data set ranges from median annual income to standardized-test scores to voter turnout.

The report examines the differences between only blacks and whites in light of the high-profile cases that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and the holiday honoring King, who played a prominent role in the civil rights movement to end segregation and discrimination against blacks.

One ranking measures the current integration levels of whites and blacks. South Carolina ranks 34th.

Breaking that down, the state is 24th in employment and wealth, and 19th in social and civic engagement, but 44th in education and 47th in health.

In a separate ranking of states’ racial progress levels achieved over time, South Carolina is 21st: No. 9 in employment and wealth, No. 34 in education, No. 14 in social and civic engagement, and No. 36 in health.

For the record, the states that rank highest as most racially integrated are Hawaii, New Mexico, Kentucky, Arizona and Texas. The worst is District of Columbia, followed by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and South Dakota. Among South Carolina’s neighbors, Georgia is No. 11 and North Carolina is 18th.

In progress over time, Wyoming is best, followed by Texas, Georgia, New Mexico and Maryland. North Carolina ranks 14th. Maine is last.

So what should be taken away from the report on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and 50 years after his death in 1968?

The world is a very different place with measures of race relations and racism different than a half-century ago. As the narrative accompanying the WalletHub survey states: “It’s important to recognize the racial harmony we’ve achieved — in our workplaces, in our schools, in our voting booths.”

But as the rankings indicate and people should realize without a study, the colorblind society envisioned by King remains a goal. In viewpoint alone, there is a tremendous gap between blacks and whites.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center cited by WalletHub, 92 percent of blacks say “whites benefit a great deal or a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have.” By contrast, only 46 percent of whites agree with that statement.

Whether perception is reality is not as important as addressing issues and problems. The WalletHub study only reinforces what South Carolinians and our leaders know from other measures: The education and health of the state’s people are not what they should be. Political divisions aside, finding common ground to make improvement is a priority and must be treated by our leaders as such.


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