The economic downturn has made the middle class less generous toward the poor and the people of color who make up the majority of poor people in America, according to an article in today’s Seattle Times (reprinted from the Philadephia Inquirer).
The story quotes South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer as saying that when the government helps the poor, it’s like people feeding stray animals that continually “breed.”
And it recounts Colorado state legislator Spencer Swalm saying that poor people in single-family homes are “dysfunctional.”
People are insecure about the future and therefore they hang on to external differences to justify decisions that are not conducive to ending poverty in America. It’s not surprising then, we find ourselves asking the question: “Am I being treated fairly by my neighbor next door?” Discrimination is on the rise in America and we ought to be aware of this trend and make others aware of it so we can understand why it’s happening. This is nothing more than a survival mechanism present in our society for decades, and it’s not going to go away without all of us getting involved.
As a society we have a social responsibility to the poor, not only because they have limiting factors that are beyond their control, but also because the alternative would result in more crime and misery for families around the country.
Excluding oneself from either group is also wrong because it gives the privileged group a false sense of advantage over the disadvantaged group and it perpetuates institutionalized racism in America.
Blaming the disadvantaged group based on their choices regardless of whether these people had a choice about falling into poverty is not what defines our country. Equal opportunity for all regardless of social status, race or cultural background is what makes our country great even when the state of the economy is frail.
Embracing diversity and promoting equal rights is important because it unites all people and it makes us strong as a nation. We crossed the bridge of inequality with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the American Civil Rights Act of 1964. We’ve come a long way since then and we need to move forward.
We celebrate Black History Month in February and would like to invite you to reflect on this topic for a moment. Think about your blessings for a moment and those around you who are less fortunate than you. We can make a difference by identifying these issues and bringing them up for discussion. Together we can end this crisis and build a better nation for all.