AuthorBarber, William J., II

The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, yet millions of American families have had to set up crowdfunding sites to try to raise money for their loved ones' medical bills. Millions more can buy unleaded gasoline for their car, but they can't get unleaded water in their homes. Almost half of America's workers--whether in Appalachia or Alabama, California or Carolina--work for less than a living wage. And as school buildings in poor communities crumble for lack of investment, America's billionaires are paying a lower tax rate than the poorest half of households.

This moral crisis is coming to a head as the coronavirus pandemic lays bare America's deep injustices. While the virus itself does not discriminate, it is the poor and disenfranchised who will experience the most suffering and death. They're the ones who are least likely to have health care or paid sick leave, and the most likely to lose work hours. And though children appear less vulnerable to the virus than adults, Americas nearly forty million poor and low-income children are at serious risk of losing access to food, shelter, education, and housing in the economic fallout from the pandemic.

The underlying disease, in other words, is poverty, which was killing nearly 700 of us every day in the world's wealthiest country, long before anyone had heard ofCOVID-19.

The moral crisis of poverty amid vast wealth is inseparable from the injustice of systemic racism, ecological devastation, and our militarized war economy. It is only a minority rule sustained by voter suppression and gerrymandering that subverts the will of the people. To redeem the soul of America--and survive a pandemic--we must have a moral fusion movement that cuts across race, gender, class, and cultural divides.

The United States has always been a nation at odds with its professed aspirations of equality and justice for all--from the genocide of original inhabitants to slavery to military aggression abroad. But there have been periods in our history when courageous social movements have made significant advances. We must learn from those who've gone before us as we strive to build a movement that can tackle today's injustices--and help all of us survive.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, African Americans who had just escaped slavery joined with white allies to form coalitions that won control of nearly every southern legislature. These Reconstruction-era political alliances enacted new...

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