Today, many people admire Martin Luther King Jr. for his initiative and passion in the fight for racial equality. However, what many do not know is that at the time of his assassination, a majority of the country disliked him.

This was in part because he vocally opposed the Vietnam War. Although he was accused of being a traitor and un-American, it is clear now that he was way ahead of his time — and ours.

King called racism, militarism and the economic exploitation of poverty the three evils of the world. At the time of his assassination, he fiercely advocated for economic justice.

King preached the importance of intersectionality, and mentioned in an interview that it is impossible to address one of these three evils without addressing the others. He realized that racial equality meant nothing without economic equality because having freedom meant nothing if you had no means to sustain yourself.

While he believed in the American Dream and that each individual should work toward their full potential, “it’s a cruel thing to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

Martin Luther King memorial Washington DC1. 12 june 2016

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. The author invokes his legacy in bemoaning the Hawaii Legislature’s failure to increase the minimum wage.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While many individuals and politicians admire King for his leadership and vision, it is clear that his legacy is not being continued. Even with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation — at just 2 percent — Hawaii ranks ninth for the worst poverty rate, with 48 percent of households not able to make enough income to meet their basic needs. One of the main causes for Hawaii’s high poverty rate is the incredibly low minimum wage.

Some concerns about raising the minimum wage include the effects it will have on unemployment and small businesses. However, in just the past few years, after seeing a nearly 40 percent increase in the minimum wage, small business employment in Hawaii has increased and unemployment has reached record lows.

If we were to raise the minimum wage, not only would the quality of life for all minimum wage workers improve, but that would also open doors for more skilled workers to demand and earn the higher salary that they deserve.

Despite the glaring evidence that shows raising the minimum wage would improve our economy on all fronts, this issue is still met with so much resistance.

With bills such as Senate Bill 2291 — which would raise the minimum wage — not even getting to the House for a hearing this past legislative session, and bills being passed such as House Bill 2748 that give developers $360 million to build rental apartments at $4,000 per month — it is obvious that our current politicians are not acting in the best interests of the people.

With only seven current senators and four current representatives listed as supporters of a living wage on livingwagehawaii.com/supporters, it is clear that most elected Hawaii Democrats don’t align with traditional Democratic Party values. There are plenty of challengers who support this policy, so although they are at an extreme disadvantage due to a lack of rich donor support, there are options for voters to choose a better representative.

Visit livingwagehawaii.com to find out who supports a living wage, and register to vote in the August primary.

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