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
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?