White privilege, and male at that, remains a powerful force in our culture.
And personally, before I get too sold on my own accomplishments, it is always helpful to remind myself that I started, via a genetic lottery, with a huge advantage.
If you look at life as if it were a football game, I was born on my opponents’ 5-yard line, while they weren’t even in the stadium.
Larry James, The Truth of White Privilege, from his blog, Larry James’ Urban Daily
Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, “working poor,” should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.
David K. Shipler, The Working Poor (Invisible in America)
It is horrifying to watch the scenes from Ferguson, Missouri. As I write this, the National Guard has now been called in. The autopsy has been released (Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times). And, everyone seems to be weighing in…
I recently got one of those non-poll polls in the mail. You know, fill this out, check off what you think is most important, and please send in your poll, along with a contribution for the campaign.
What struck me was the absence of the issue of poverty as a box to check in the poll. And there are about 50 million Americans who live in poverty, according to the “official” guidelines. There are many, many more who live just barely over the line. And many who are underemployed. And many who fit the description of David Shipler – working, but poor – in The Working Poor.
We consistently miss our “learning moments/teachable moments” in this country. The tragic killing of Michael Brown will probably be another one of those missed moments. (I hope not).
One reason we miss these is that we really do not do enough consciousness raising on the issues faced by folks among us who are not fully part of the “in groups.”
So far, people are reflecting on the Ferguson story as an issue of race; class; the militarization of the police; poverty.
I think we all need to do some reading, to help us understand in each of these areas.
So, here’s a short suggested reading list on one of these areas — for a little consciousness raising of your own, on the “poverty” issue (with race very much a part of the conversation here).
First, read the Ta-Nehisi Coates article on The Case for Reparations. This is a lengthy article from The Atlantic. It is a tour de force on the way we “officially” practiced racism in this country over a very long period, producing some pretty imposing barriers on African Americans. No wonder so many African Americans have to struggle so hard against poverty!
Next, read The Working Poor (Invisible in America) by David K. Shipler. Shipler is a clear writer – a Pulitzer Prize winning author. This book will help you understand in a real way, at the heart and the intellectual levels, the plight of the poor – the “invisible” among us. (Read my blog post, “Nobody who works hard should be poor in America” writes David Shipler).
And, read The Wealth of the Poor: How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in our Cities (Hunger * Health * Housing * Hope) by Larry James. (Read my review of this book, here).
Though this book is from a Christian perspective, with plenty of references to the Bible, it is of great value whether you are a follower of the Bible or not. (Larry James has spent more than four decades immersed in ministry to the poor).
An educated opinion, formed by reading material that has substance, helps us understand better.
But, sadly, after all of the books, and speeches, and calls for change… we haven’t solved the problems, have we?