Last week, I spoke to students at Grosse Pointe South High School in the suburbs of Detroit. This is the same place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic speech in March 1968, three weeks before he was assassinated. In his speech that day, King talked about "The Other America" and painted a grim portrait of the economic disparity that separated black America from white America.
Here are some of King's words from that day:
"The struggle today is much more difficult. It's more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. And 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."
A few weeks ago, we marked the 45th anniversary of King's death. Despite his call to action, more than four decades later, there is still a dividing line in America, and it's arguably deeper now than it was then. It's no longer about racism; though some of that undoubtedly still exists, it has largely been confronted and marginalized and is no longer acceptable in American society. But economic inequality has not been addressed and persists to this day. Depending on where you live and how much education you have, Americans increasingly live in two separate worlds.
The prominent sociologist and scholar Charles Murray has studied and written extensively on these two worlds and the growing divergence between them. He describes two fictional towns, one made up of college-educated professionals with very low rates of illegitimacy, crime and unemployment and the other where most have high-school educations and where single-parent homes are common. Though Murray's fictional towns are not far geographically, they are worlds apart in everything else, and the divergence continues. In terms of rates of marriage, single-parent homes, education levels, crime and participation in the workforce, these two towns are on completely different trajectories and creating a great rift in America.
Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.
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