Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Have Nots

Last MLK Day was pretty busy for me. I did some volunteer work at a local outreach center, attended an Affirmative Action rally and an MLK Symposium on the main campus, and capped the day by going to watch my beloved Pistons lose to the miserable Timberwolves. But, perhaps the most notable thing I did was the volunteer work that a few of us put in at one of the food banks in the city. The experience wasn’t noteworthy to the extent that I felt like I did a great thing for the world (in fact, probably the opposite). Rather, it was notable because it helped me to realize something that too many of us fail to think about: Poverty is really a big deal that, oddly, does not seem to garner the attention that it requires.

In today’s social climate, it’s clear to me that poverty has become one of those ping-pong balls that we enjoy hitting every now and again (we hit it away from us, but it eventually comes back). But we have failed to produce any concrete and LONG-TERM solutions. Every time I hear a politician declare to the world that they plan to fight poverty, I turn red in the face. The sobering reality is that politics, no matter how manipulative and influencial, is NOT an adequate mechanism for tackling this issue. Most of us enjoy hearing soundbytes from politicians (in fact, most of us demand that they address it in their “agenda”), because we want to reassure ourselves that we care about the poor. We want to believe that we’re not as shallow and heartless as most other people. We want to believe that supporting a politician who speaks out against poverty is really doing something in the interest of the poor (even if they don’t do anything at all). I liken it to buying the mega-sized tub of popcorn, the bulk-sized box of Goobers, and a diet Coke; thinking that the diet soda will somehow add some nutritional value.

It’s my belief that poverty exists in this country because we; the middle to high-middle income folks in society; need for poverty to exist. The poor of the world are used to satisfy our sense of value and self-worthiness. Similar to the junk food/diet Coke example, we throw a couple of coins to a poor person and think that we’ve actually done something to help them out of their situation. This, to me, is exactly why even some of the riches cities in the country have not been able to truly address the problem of poverty. Like so many others, the presumption is that “spare change” kindness and governmental programs are the only solutions to the problem. But, I’m convinced that there are deeper factors that must be considered. What they are, I don’t know.

One of the reasons why I decided to start a blog was to keep my thoughts and reflections in a secure place where I could also share with others (as long as the Internet is not destroyed by Iran, I should be good). Maybe one day, my blog will serve a greater purpose. When God calls me home, maybe Landon or one of my own kids will stumble on this site and will get an idea on how Uncle Andre or (*gulp!*) Daddy thought about some of the situations the world was facing in my time. But more importantly, maybe peering into my thoughts will help them to successfully come up with solutions to the problems of their time. That said, I have a simple question for any readers out there (present and future):

You’re a state governor. Your state is represented by an assorted demographic (made up of whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, etc.) One of the most significant threats to your state is poverty. How do you resolve this problem?

I’m not expecting any answers to this. But if you’d like to take a crack at it; by all means, do so. For the most part, this is just a simple activity that I use to question myself on how well I understand things. It’s not hard to sit back and blame the government for the problems of the world. It’s just as easy to blame rich, pampered, and spoiled celebrities. But, the biggest question is: How do YOU deal with the issues?


9 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

KC said...

Besides the government and individual benevolence, I'm not sure what else there is. I'm interested to hear what you have to say on this one.

Joslyn said...

Okay, I'll bite:

*DISCLAIMER* I’m not that well-versed in the inner-workings of how to get things done, these are just ideas that I'd throw out there


First, I'd actually start off with my smaller cities. I DO know that there are grants available for small cities that are in major need of businesses (i.e. Flint). How it works is that the government gives you a big helping hand to those who want to open mom and pop stores in that city. I'd hire people to research these grants and then I'd create forums and classes for those wanting to open a business to receive step-by-step help. Mom-and Pop stores=jobs=taxes going back into that city. I'd also try to create an incentive for the people of that city to actually support the stores of that city.

For my larger cities, I'd strongly solicit large business head-quarters to open chains in the cities (i.e. factories, law firms, funeral homes, University extensions, etc)

I would create revenue in my city and try and use some of the tax money to educate. I believe that hand-outs only go so far. You need know-how (how much MORE would the people of Flint have if they would've utilized their job at GM to receive an education in something rather than just living paycheck to paycheck?)

I would want to get extensive drug and rehab facilities, that were government funded (I don't know how good they would be, but it's a start and it creates jobs)

Also, I would create a transitional facility for those leaving prison to ease their way back into the "real world" (more jobs, somebody's got to work there, right?)

It seems that for every idea that you get started to help someone, you also create jobs.

That's a tuffy, Andre but those are some of the ways I'd try to get people off the street.


The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
The best examples of people actually helping the poor as opposed to band-aiding it is....(drum roll please Andre).....RELIGION! Think about it. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Mission House, Whaley Home, St.Vincent DePaul. and too many more to count. Religion and it's Churches help people every day get off drugs, hide from abusers, get clothes for children, get Christmas presents, feed the homeless, and have some hope. Consider that the next time one of it's members gets caught doing something wrong and you want to stand in judgement of them all. Great post Dre, did I win anything?

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre` My Sweet Greeneyed KING!!!

Poverty has been an issue since the begining of time as other issues that humans(Government) seem not to be able to or want to resolve , as in war . Unless you have everyone on board Government ,The rich etc. to address this situation it is not going anywhere and getting worse if anything and fast .
The great majority of poor are working poor , the person making a min. wage but living in todays high inflation world ,throw a family ,or being a single parent into the mix ,it is a recipe for disaster .
Keeping min. wage in alinement with inflation or above it would be a great step of keeping poverty at bay in these situations but not necessaery an easy path .
I agree with alot of the other comments , but it is a hard one , hopefully by the time you are a *Daddy * and your blog is being read as a part of their History ,this problem will have been solved .

Great post handsome ,,,,as always ,God Bless and stay warm .

MM Greeneyes ;0}

The H.C. said...

P.S. "Consider that the next time one of it's members gets caught doing something wrong and you want to stand in judgement of them all."
Not meant to mean you Andre.

Andre said...

@ KC: Wassup, dawg?

I've got some ideas, but they're a little long for a reply in my comment section. I think I'll devote a separate post for them. Stay tuned...

@ Jos: You appear to be more "well-versed" than most of the people we put in office. I can't fault you for that.

Now, speaking to your points: I totally agree that micro-financing is a critical component of poverty reduction (Congratulations on coming up with that. I taught you well, my young one...). Smaller subsidies to 'Mom and Pop' shops can (theoretically) lead to more production, more sales, and more money going back to the city by way of taxes. I liken it to a farmer borrowing money to purchasing a cow. He makes up his loan by selling milk produced from the cow and possibly the cow itself.


To see a complete overhaul of the current developmental system to completely reform social and economic poverty-reducing programs are LONG TERM actions. What can be done in the interim?

The Bush Administration, for instance, is using the idea of permanent tax cuts as an end-all for combatting poverty. But it clearly isn't working.

Not bad though, Jos. Not bad at all.

@ HC: Giving food, clothing, and temporary shelter is band-aiding, Hipster. It's an INCREDIBLE gesture of love and kindness, no doubt. But it still only provides a temporary solution to a deeper problem.

Interestingly, Jesus warned us that the poor would always be with us. I'm not so sure, though, that He necessarily meant "poor" as in 'completely impoverished'. Rather, I think He meant the poor in spirit, marginalized folks, and -- yes -- the finanically poor. But being poor -- to me -- is different than being impoverished.

Your thoughts?

@ Greeny: Hey, my green-eyed queen. Going back to my response to HC, I think there's a difference between poor and impoverished. For the 'working-poor', quality of life sucks, but there is at least some quality. Not much, but some. I'm talking about people on the streets with NO home, NO source of income, NO food. Once they're accounted for, we can move to those who are on the low end. Essentially, I'm not starting with the people who are on the lowest rung of the ladder. I'm talking about the guys who aren't even ON the ladder yet.

I agree with you in that this is a VERY difficult thing to address. It's hard to find ONE GOOD ANSWER to address the problem. Rather, a good resolution involves a series of responses.

Hopefully our green-eyed children (*evil grin*) won't have to deal with this in their time.

@ HC (part II): Don't worry, my friend. I wasn't at all offended. I actually think that you're on to something. As much as I talk smack about the Church, they do make it a priority to involve themselves in the problems of the world. Sometimes they do it with a nose of judgement; yes. But they do their part to an extent.

No offense taken.

Joslyn said...

Well Andre,

Unfortunately there isn't much one can do in the interim. What's being done to meet simple needs (ie, soup kitchens, clothing drives, etc.) are helping people on a day-to-day basis, until the long term can be instituted.

I have to say, I do think that Jesus was including "impoversished" when He said that there would always be the poor among us. If for no other reason than because there are always going to be poeple who are content with taking handouts and don't want to be helped, no matter if help is available or not.

I have a relative, for example, that no matter HOW our family tries to help him, he insists on taking the handouts and even has resorted to scheming to receive handouts.....If only he used his power for good.

Of course, their reasoning for being poor doesn't make us exempt from helping them....... (hmmmm, I gotta think about that one)


Anonymous said...

Well, Andre, I have a solution, but it won't be popular.

Kill them all.

Just kidding. Seriously though, my real solution will be just as unpopular, maybe more so.

We need to actually take these people in. Not just give them a soup kitchen so we feel better about ourselves, or a pile of clothes. We need to sacrifice our quality of living so that they can get out of poverty.

I am working on planting a church, and one of my friends who is helping is all gung-ho about having a soup kitchen and clothing pantry (or whatever they are called). I explained that these are treating symptoms, not the disease, and that instead we should implement training and placement for jobs, and provide affordable housing.

The obvious limitation is that we can only reach a few people this way, and we get stuck with a choice between quantity and quality. And while Jesus certainly spoke to a quantity of people, I see Him more as a quality kind of guy.

I also could write a whole post about this, maybe I will.

Cynthia said...

Hmmm. This is a tough one. I don't know how bigger places like here in Atlanta can deal with those types of problems. Your guess is as good as mine.