Martin Luther King: The Other America


Stanford, 1967

There are literally two Americas…. One America is beautiful for situation. In this America, millions of people have the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality flowing before them. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, thousands and thousands of people, men in particular walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist. In this other America, millions of people are forced to live in vermin-filled, distressing housing conditions where they do not have the privilege of having wall-to-wall carpeting, but all too often, they end up with wall-to-wall rats and roaches.”–Martin Luther King, 1968 Grosse Point High School (

As I walk around the checkerboard of modern America, ducking out of alleys and strolling through suburbs, I have to wonder: What’s changed?

Is there less “extreme behavior” towards people of color? Towards impoverished peoples? I hope so. As someone born into relative privilege–a middle class white woman in suburbia–I will probably never know the answer to that question first hand.

More importantly, is there more “genuine equality”? Are we less suspicious of those different from us? Do we help those who need it? Or do we sit back and say “now’s not the time”? And if so, when is “the time”? What are we waiting for?

I do not ask these questions rhetorically. I do not ask to incite guilt or shame. Nothing good ever came from those feelings.

But, from everything I’ve seen, heard, and felt, the Other America is still a reality.


buildings on Martin Luther King streets throughout the country

And I have to wonder: why?

what can we do to fix it?



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