The Curse of Childhood Poverty

The thing that oppressors always seek to maintain is the silence of the very people whom they are oppressing. Silence calls no attention to the means & the brutality of oppression & suffering. Look at the places where the riots are occurring around our country & ask yourself if you would choose to live in any of those places. Ask yourself, would you surrender your rights & privileges the way that the people who live in those places are expected to surrender theirs? Would you want to live your life with a target on your very life by virtue of the color & economic strata that you inhabit? Being poor and being black are not crimes.

Look what this guy took, toilet paper. Does that tell you something about how poor he might be?

Look what this guy took: toilet paper. Does that tell you something about how poor he might be?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

When that statement was made the civil rights act has been passed but the conditions still continued & today, in many ways, those conditions have grown far more severe & people who ought to have the same opportunities, in fact, do not & the weight of that burden gathers as the decades go by. The income gap between the rich & the poor was far narrower in the late 1960’s than it is today. Poverty is a form of oppression when equal opportunity is a figment of our cultural imagination, an unrealized ideal that is denied by those impatient with the time it takes to right the wrong that slavery wrought on our country. Slavery’s burden is still borne by the same class & the same people, citizens, who are forced to wear the racial labels that were applied long ago to justify their oppression & absence of full status as citizens, as fully fledged human beings entitled to the same hopes & dreams as those who were advantaged by their oppression & enslavement.

When a child is born in the U.S., we assume that child will have generally the same opportunities as any other child; but that assumption is certainly more an ideal than it has ever been a realized civic values upheld & supported by the public purse. When your kid has a smart phone and a good school where s/he can pursue an education and personal interests, & another child cannot even afford pencils, pens & paper for their homework, that is an unrealized ideal of shameful proportion. A poor child is not less American than a middle-class child, and hence, not less entitled to the benefits of citizenship in the country in which that child was born.

Children do not aspire to or deserve poverty or the absence of benefit that other citizens enjoy. A society & government that does not see to the equitable distribution of public benefits such as a decent education is a failure morally, ethically and those railing against the cost of such inequities caused by the failure to value our children deserve the consequences of the fear, derision & failure to understand & empathize with the challenges of poverty on children & their families but the children who bear the burden of those consequences do not.

The misery that the right is willing to visit on the poor, the inequitable application of laws to keep the poor “in their place,” this is the religion of the right wing. This is what they so religiously spread in their political conversations without ever acknowledging who bears the real cost. They don’t study the foundations of American poverty, nor do they study its costs. That entire burden is born by the poor. They keep flogging the same dead horse that Ronald Reagan began flogging in the State of California about who will pay for it & he kept flogging that dead horse long past its death on the Federal level & his political heirs continue to beat the skeleton of that dead horse today.

The inequities of poverty & racism have grown deeper and deeper in our country since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 the backlash & racism has hidden itself in the Republican Party only to become more & more overt since the election of Barack Obama. The selfishness of the political right wing has slowly been becoming the central dogma of the declared Christian Conservative who now climbs the mountain of self-righteous arrogance to declare that those who suffer are lazy and undeserving and smugly accept that the prosperity they experience is somehow deserved.

None of the humility that I was taught as a child in Sunday School exists for them. Never the thought “There but for the Grace of God go I” nor the idea of walking a mile in the shoes of another before rendering any judgment against them. Nor do they listen to those bearing the burden of poverty & they don’t seem to like the idea of lifting children out of poverty.

Educational opportunity is the way out of poverty. Children given a decent opportunity for education & enough food, rest & positive reinforcement have the best chance to succeed as adults & to resist the rebelious allure of criminality. There is no valid argument against that fact & yet, “who’s going to pay for it” is somehow put forward as a more significant value than ensuring the success of such children or the consideration of the longterm consequences of failing to provide education to our youngest citizens. What do they think will happen to those citizens who we fail to¬†educate and remain impoverished? Many of them rioted in Baltimore on Monday after school. I don’t blame them. The hypocrisy is that there are those calling them thugs, the same people who collude with one another in the failure to educate them as children.