26 thoughts on “The Other America”

  1. I feel that America has always been, and still is, two-sided(divided by color line, social status, and etc. Mainly by color line), where colored people live in a worse version of America comparing to the America white people lives in. Indeed, rioting is not necessarily an appropriate way to protest, but nowadays we are living in a world where there are so many events going on at the same time (COVID, Politics related news) if it’s not shocking enough no one will pay any attention to the BLM movement we are seeing today (because people can’t keep up or gave up keeping up with current events). Because in a way, we are kind of getting used to it (doesn’t mean that it is right to abuse police power, but we’ve seen too many cases to be shocked about it.). We are still far from merging two Americas into one; certainly, the two America’s will merge into one, it’s just a matter of time, but I can’t see how long it’s going to take.

    1. Great point. our threshold of being shocked is alarmingly high these days, thanks to the social media and the news cycle, which bombard us with a dozen shocks a day, so it takes a really gruesome, disturbing image like the death of George Floyd for people to respond. you can see the riots in that light as well: the protests won’t affect people. to take the shock into the streets you need to make a huge spectacle so they start to listen to you.

  2. Obama seems like the dream, the dream that Dr. King had. Oh, to see this terrible White House, it’s dismantling of the people, it’s heartbreaking. Dr. King’s speech and what you said in tonight’s lecture, made me think of Aziz Ansari’s monologue when he hosted SNL, which came the day after the inauguration. He said “There’s like this new, lower-case K.K.K. movement that started — this kind of casual white supremacy. ” (here is the transcript and video: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/arts/aziz-ansari-monologue-transcript-snl.html ); something all these forces saying, about the division of this country, about how entrenched we are in the racism of this country, this legacy of the divide. Can the divide be obliterated? I don’t know. I want the answer to be yes, which is why I suppose, I don’t know. What Cornel West said, and I’m so happy you included that video, ” if you don’t do something and say something, the rocks are going to cry out,” oh my god, that’s the ticket, right there, along with Dr. King, and Obama, that if we don’t try, we lose. I’m so happy we protested, that the protests are continuing, that we’re reading these works as we emerge from isolation, our tempers and tears raw. This, this has been a gift.

    1. That’s a nice speech, I hadn’t seen this.
      let’s not romanticize Obama though. Obama the candidate was very different from Obama the president. He expanded the drone strike in the Middle East, he derided the Wall Street movement, he rehired people responsible for the financial crisis, etc. there was a yawning gap between his words and his action. I believe Dr. West is also targeting him when he talks about those stuck in “the basement of the house.” I don’t believe Obama is in the same league as Dr. King.

      1. No you are so right, he is not in the same league as Dr. King. And he was flawed, he was. But now I’m living in Trump’s America, and in the rear view, Obama is my Mr. D’Arcy.

      2. I agree Obama meant more to America in a ideal sense more that actual change. Him being black was an inspiration to everyone, but he was mixed and he grew up with the white part of his family. He was educated and he did feel the effects of racism that you can’t escape, it he also had some comforts that others didn’t have. I also think it’s noticeable that a lot of the successful black people we have in this country tend to be mixed which is a whole other layer of racism.

  3. Cornel West’s speech illuminates on the fact that MLK had 55% disapproval among black people. They felt that he was going too far by claiming that the Vietnam War was unnecessary and attempting to solidify the community of poor individuals. As West states, the wealthiest 1% of individuals in America gained 95% of the grossed income in the last ten years. There remains an enormous gap between the wealthy and the poor in America. It’s disheartening to say the least, that black people at the time were so afraid of “asking for too much” or “going too far” that they would disapprove of one of the greatest black leaders to speak on topics that without a doubt always related to the civil rights movement. As MLK stated, the Vietnam War was relevant to the civil rights movement in that, America was finding problems outside their own country before they fixed the problems at home. This concept is similar to the manner in which the country finds the funds to fight wars and fund the prison system but can’t find funds for education, health care, environmental protection, the working class or poor communities. Another interesting point is that Obama having been a president is not an indicator that America is post-racial but rather that it is less racist. As a country, America is willing to accept a black man as a president but that does not in any manner mean that America is no longer discriminating against skin color. A black president is a step toward progression but it does not mean that the country is no longer racist; just a little less so.
    – Simran Sharda

    1. Thank you! it is indeed shocking to know about his approval numbers back in the day. but as dr. West points out, the popular MLK today is a sterilized one, stripped of his radical politics. maybe if he was still alive and could talk for himself he wouldn’t be that popular now.

  4. I love that at 3 minutes into Cornel West’s video he acknowledges the impact of Obama but is sure to emphasize that having a black president doesn’t mean America is no longer a racist country. I find all too often the protected class wants to point at one example and say racism is over.

    “The emancipation proclamation is over, no slaves = equality.”
    “MLK as a leader of the civil rights movement, that ended racism.” (if so, then why as he shot, hello!).
    “Obama is president. See? America loves black people.”
    “Look at this Instagram video of a black kid hugging a white kid, aren’t we amazing people now! MLK’s “I Had a Dream” came true!”

    These statements are oversimplified and false. And yes, I am being paraphrasing to prove a point, but the general concepts of the ideas exist in people’s heads. If I had to guess, I would say this happens due to a mix of people who don’t actually want to change, and those who want to say they are “not racist” but don’t want to put in the actual work to fix the problem. I would love anyone’s opinions on why this happens or just their general opinion about it.

    1. Thank you! the general public is characteristically lazy, eager for simple solutions and nice spectacle. they love the image of kids of different colors hug because that’s visually satisfying and gives them excuse to avoid the harder work. but, as MLK points out here, it’s much easier to have a party in which white and black folks drink and dance together, compared to providing equal opportunities and justice for those very people.

  5. The two different versions of America really helps explain why the country has been at this seemingly impossible impasse for so long. For those who live in the prosperous version of America, the country is great and it is the “land of the free, home of the brave.” This exemplifies a certain type of ignorance because they are unaware of the plight that the other half of America faces. The other version of America is one of struggle and one in which hard work does not always breed success. Because of these conflicting versions of America, it is difficult to bring about positive change because not everyone is aware that change is needed. Also, the link you created with racism and genocide stood out to me because it is the root cause of such atrocities. It reminded me of this poem:

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    1. Thank you! I also find the passage where he talks about genocide as the ultimate logic of racism particularly moving. this is a dark, almost unbearable truth very few people articulate in public.

  6. The second America, MLK explains, is the place where the nation’s citizens live in poverty. He mentions the several races occupying this America, including poor white people, before characterizing the Black American experience: “The American Negro finds himself living in a triple ghetto. A ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery.”

  7. It’s crazy that many people in the united states who aren’t around black people don’t know about our plight. So when they first learn about it and how black Americans have been treated they won’t believe it, because it is impossible that this kinda injustice can happen in “THEIR AMERICA”. However, the other side of America isn’t just black and white, it is rich and poor which in the grand scheme of America’s capitalist society is the base of most injustice.

    I feel the reason people are finally seeing the other side of America is because they had no choice. Due to COVID, everyone was stuck inside during the murdering of George Floyd, so they had no choice but to watch the police murder a man for no reason. After seeing that, they started to hear about all the injustices and unfair treats that black people get from the police and the law enforcement, now they want to join the fight.

    1. Thank you! I think you’re right. it’s hard to get people out of their comfort zone. the 24/7 news cycle and social media have made it even harder by making us inured to violence and shocking images. maybe if people weren’t stuck for so long, even maybe if the weather wasn’t nice, people wouldn’t take to the street for George Floyd either. who knows. but it’s important that they have, for whatever reason. it’s a significant step that we need to recognize and build on.

  8. America is sick with a longstanding, greatly documented sickness: an identity crisis. Dr. King diagnoses it, stating why it is a chronic illness and not acute. Its social hierarchies have rotted its eyes to the core, resulting in its viewing of the American Negro as less than human. Its affliction is now moving to what the eyes can not see: income and class. Too late to take preventive measures, King attempts to prescribe the age old medicine of “we have more in common than we do different”. Unfortunately, as we later learn, “time is neutral”; even today, we still do not have the parts in place to allow simply time for healing. 2020 America is still terribly sick, only its medicine has become stronger.

  9. MLK’s The Other America really reminded me of DuBois’ double consciousness metaphor. I loved this speech so much because it truly laid out, in the simplest of terms, the issues that Black people have faced in this country for centuries, and it is also explains why the protests have been going on for over a month. It is not just about police brutality, it’s about everything that King mentioned in his speech. It’s about the fact that schools in New York are the most segregated in the entire country, it’s about the fact that there is no fair and affordable housing in communities of color, but brand new buildings going up that can only be afforded by white people who have had a decades long head start in familial wealth. I could really choose any quote from this speech to exemplify the moment that we are living in today because they’re all relevant, but I really love this one:

    “It’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.”

    While there have been small incremental changes over the past few decades, it’s clear that we have got a lot longer to go.

  10. America has always had a great divide when it came to their beliefs. A common phrase used to maintain peace is to “agree to disagree”. Unfortunately due to this majority remain silent as injustice continues in America. Demand for basic rights and equal opportunity for people usually fall on deaf ears until it becomes political. Commonly injustice is only made aware during campaigning and is fairly on the low otherwise on mainstream media. Very aggravating considering this affects so many lives directly. But due to this lack of information being streamed out daily, other than during election time, many who want to stay informed do it on their own time. I personally see this to be one of the root reasons as to why America is so divided. Many stay stubbornly uninformed due to how uncomfortable reality really is.

    1. Thank you! that is very true. ironically the more widespread and easy to access the media becomes, the less-informed many people sound. our personal prejudices makes us lean twards the news that fits our assumptions better, even though sometimes we ourselves know that the news isn’t accurate.

  11. It has been more than 50 years since Dr. King delivered this speech, and to be honest, the other America still exists today. In this America, George Freud died a tragic death. On the other hand, I’ve always known that the gap between the rich and the poor in The United States is very wide. In The United States, rich and poor live very different lives. But when the poor overlap disproportionately with the black, the picture is more nuanced. There are reasonable grounds for deciding that the black community is “targeted”.
    In fact, I sometimes wonder where the white superiority comes from. I saw a film named Moonlight two days ago. A sentence said by a character in the film left a deep impression on me. He said: “There is no place in the world without black people, black people are the first people on the earth.” I think it’s time for white people to put aside their hubris, take a fresh look at their place in the world and embrace racial equality.

    1. Thank you! American white supremacy came from slavery in the US, it’s not global. Racism exists everywhere, but it takes different forms and is practiced against different people.

  12. This is the first time that I heard about Cornel West and I was blown away by the energy and power of his speech. Mr. West like Dr. King gave me the perception of being someone true to his beliefs; someone who does not hold his tongue because he is afraid to upset the status quo. Like MLK, Cornel West condemns the inequalities created by the American government and few of the arguments that he stressed really stood out to me. This video reminds me of “The Other America” speech where Reverend King accused the American government of spending millions of dollars on the Vietnam war and ignoring the importance of providing funds in education, healthcare and housing. Cornel West recites some dramatic statistics about our justice and prison system in which three hundred billion of dollars are invested in. Further he points out the economic inequality that this country face, claiming the 1% of the population owns 42% of the wealth of this nation. At last I found remarkable the way he highlighted the fact that America is still a racist country, saying that “having Obama in the white house was not a sign of America post racism, it was a sign of an America less racist”

  13. It’s important to emphasize as Cornel West in his speech did that Obama being elected to be president it was an incredible progress but is America not racist anymore because of this?. Dr. king’s speech is fantastically pertinent today as a result of its discourse on racism and “white backlash.” Racism is fit as a fiddle and more across the board than numerous individuals realize. In “other America,” people with great influence utilize their situation to quietness the voice of those endeavoring to construct it. This implies implementing laws or policies approaches that make it increasingly hard to cast a ballot and stripping residents of their essential option to cast a ballot. I must concur with King. To destroy institutional racism, there must be enormous, positive action programs. We should arrange and create multiracial systems.

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