Thursday, August 18, 2011

Childhood Poverty on the Rise, Racial Inequality Worsens

I came across this depressing piece of news today on one of my favorite blogs, I could not ignore it:

31 Million U.S. Kids Live in Poverty Today As Racial Inequality Deepens
"Today, one in five U.S. kids are living in poverty, says a new report on how kids are faring in the recession. Everything about the foreclosure crisis and recession and the attack on the public safety net that has made the last few years difficult for U.S. adults has also made things tough for U.S. children. But for kids of color, the numbers are much worse.
More than one in three black kids—a full 36 percent of black youth—live in poverty and 31 percent of Latino kids lives in poverty. And for many of the indicators of child welfare that the Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose 2011 Kids Count Data Book was released on Wednesday, tracks, like infant mortality rates and school achievement, black and Latino kids fare far worse than their white counterparts. 
For example, in 2009, a full 16 states reported poverty rates for black children that were upwards of 40 percent. And in five states, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama, more than 40 percent of Latino kids there lived in poverty. However, no state has a white children’s poverty rate that’s over 23 percent. 
While the disparities are nothing new, there are several key explanations for the deepening inequality, said Jann Jackson, a senior fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The foreclosure crisis, which had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, stole much of whatever wealth black and Latino families had been able to accumulate throughout the 1990s. And while everyone’s been hurt by the ongoing economic recession, white folks who have more access to the markets, have been able to regain some of their footing as the stock market has recovered somewhat, Jackson said. Whatever recovery has happened has bypassed communities of color, though, just as public support systems like unemployment insurance, food stamps and health insurance are being eroded."
More at link:

Last year I read that it was 1 out of 6 kids, now its reported that 1 out 5 kids are living in poverty. The collective dismissal of this issue is disgusting, yet our government is only partially to blame. We-as a populous- have also ignored this saddening reality by not recognizing it as a priority. Poor people are our most despaired, and it is often said that we are judged most by how we treat our most vulnerable. 

Our country has a long history of being hostile to the poor. From Reagan's infamous caricature of the "Welfare Queen" to our thin safety net, the very currently under attack. The insensitive and ill-informed like vilify the poor, blaming their actions for their situations. These accusations are too outrageous for me to even entertain them, so I will not. We- especially us people of color-need to focus our concern on correcting the growing social inequality in our country. 

Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornell West have been criticized for their nationwide poverty tour, some believing that their pressure on President Obama is misguided and unfair. While this is somewhat true, structural poverty has not been addressed federally since President Lydon B. Johnson's Great Society programs, Smiley and West are valid in their decision to bring attention to the fact that more and more families are living with the effects of the Great Recession and virtually nothing is being done to alleviate their suffering. The least we can do is acknowledge them.

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