This I Believe

Neal - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on September 24, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I am sick and tired of poverty. I don’t just mean any poverty. I mean a poverty that is uniquely American: Black poverty, or overwhelming poverty among African Americans. I am not African American myself, but I am tired of the seemingly permanent place of black poverty in America.

I single out black poverty because it is not accidental. America and every other nation on earth will always have poor residents. Poverty among African Americans is different, however, because it stems from our history. Our predecessors created this problem by engendering a culture of dependence, fear, mistrust and hostility among many African Americans. Sadly, to this day we are not doing enough to build productive foundations in poor black communities to overcome the crushing and omnipresent condition of poverty.

Americans of all races are partially responsible insofar as they just don’t care about poverty. I think poverty affects everybody because everybody has to pay for it, whether we have welfare, charity, lost productivity, or just plain human suffering as a cost. Every dime we feel compelled to spend on the poor is one less dime to devote to other useful purposes. This is money well-spent, but we shouldn’t have to spend as much of it in the first place.

Those who try to find solutions without solving the problem are also partially responsible. How will opportunity in the form of affirmative action or better housing help those who cannot read, live in fear, and do not feel a sense of kinship with their neighbors? How do we raise the level of education and hope among children in poor black neighborhoods? How do we encourage them to build strong families and develop the sense of self-reliance and focus that makes America great as a nation? How do we encourage the next generation of African Americans to trust the rest of America?

It is hard to understand the burden of constant black poverty on all Americans. Just imagine, however, an America without black poverty, where blacks were no more or less likely to be in poverty than any other racial demographic, where non-African Americans harbored no stereotypes about blacks and their abilities, and where blacks had faith in non-African Americans? Imagine a world where we really did work and play alongside African Americans and never thought twice about it? How much more productive would our economy be? How many more resources would we have to spend fixing problems of terrorism, the environment, and healthcare? How much more noble would we appear to our neighbors all over the world? How much happier would you be?

The dream is within our reach. All we have to do is care enough to want it, achieve it, and live it. This I believe.