We Still Live In 2 Americas, Not 1

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In the two weeks since the 2020 election, the country has wavered between joy and anger, hope and fear in a time of polarization exacerbated by the forces of racism, nativism and hatred. To be honest, while the divisive tone of this moment may only be sharper, division in the United States of America is not a new phenomenon.

For the past few days, I’ve been to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned, who in 1967, just a year before his assassination, delivered a prophetic speech entitled “The other America“In which he vividly described a reality that feels too much of this moment than of this:

“There are literally two Americas. America is beautiful … and full of the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their spirit; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits …

“But tragically and unfortunately there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness that constantly turns the exuberance of hope into the weariness of despair. In this America, millions of work-hungry men take to the streets every day looking for jobs that don’t exist. In this America, millions of people live in rat infested slums full of vermin. In this America there are millions of people poor. You are on a desert island of poverty in the middle of a vast ocean of material prosperity. ”

To Dr. In King’s day, this other America was for a time stripped of the nation by social unrest and political change, the bold actions of freedom fighters who won the suffrage law and then just kept fighting, and government programs like the war on poverty. And yet, despite the substantial gains then, for many decades since then, Inequality in this country has risen to previously unimaginable levels while poverty has continued to be persisted and largely ignored.

Today, in the early winter of an unchecked pandemic and the associated economic crisis, there is 140 million poor or low-income Americans, disproportionately colored people who, however, reach every community in this country: 24 million blacks, 38 million Latinos, eight million Asians, 2 million natives and 66 million whites. More than one Third of the potential votersIn other words, it has been relegated to poverty and precariousness, and yet political discourse in the recent elections was directed against those who were poor, or a storm, fire, job loss, eviction, or health crisis outside of poverty and economic chaos. In the distorted mirror of public order, these 140 million people have remained essentially invisible. As in the 1960s and at other times in our history, however, the poor are no longer waiting to be recognized by Washington. Instead, everyone is suggesting that they are starting to organize and take decisive action to change the level of political power.

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