Let's not blame the kids.
by Chuck Ramsay
Admittedly, I‘ve had a difficult time understanding what motivates our Republican legislators at the federal and state levels, as well as governors and other politicians with their unceasing attack on anything that would help those less fortunate among us get better jobs, have nicer neighborhoods and homes, or receive educations as good as those in the more white, affluent suburbs. Plus much more of what is granted to the privileged white population – like ordinary respect and kindness. Why is it not in all of our interests to build up everyone instead of only a select few who have lighter skin, nicer jobs, and a bank account that somehow grows while those of others shrinks?
There is systematic racism here in St. Louis and in other cities and towns throughout the United States. We can easily see that on TV, in the newspapers and on the internet. Or, just take a look around you on the streets of downtown St. Louis where poorer folks are going to lesser jobs using mass transit or walking home to the near north side. Or compare both sides of the street on Delmar adjacent the Central West End ("the Delmar Divide").
It’s no longer a big secret. Jim Crow never went away; not totally. And that is an ongoing conversation we need to have – why won’t it go away? Why is it perpetuated? Because of fear, ignorance, and reasons of greed, I’m believe.
But, what I want to talk about today are the children of poor families of color (and all other families too). When I encounter someone who wears their white privilege on their sleeve and openly disdains others they perceive as “beneath” them, my close friends can quote my usual response, “We don’t have any choice when we are born who our parents are, what zip code we live in, what the color of our skin will be, how much money our family will have, or when and how we’ll die. The only thing we have control over in this life is how we live it. Will we be kind or mean, generous or greedy?”
So what that leaves is this: Why do so many Americans today want to deny poor children any opportunity for a better, fulfilling life just because their family is not on the same social, financial or educational level they are? Why dish out disadvantages and obstacles to children because their parent(s) have encountered the criminal justice system, not finished school, don’t have a great job? Why, in fact, do many find it so easy to criminalize children – effectively making them “guilty” of all kinds of social sins just because of their birthright? Of course, the biggest travesty comes from the pro-life movement who claims to cherish and honor the unborn, but as soon as they are born that same group has little concern or caring whether those children are housed, clothed, fed, given health care or educated. It’s an ironic and hypocritical stance to be sure. And, why can't most see that the disadvantages pushed onto this population came from the privileged class in the first place?
We need to focus on our children. All of our children. For those who are disadvantaged from birth, we need to bring them up (literally) with the same opportunities and hope that their more advantaged counterparts in society receive – from neonatal care to nutrition, education, ongoing health care, safe housing and other nourishments that help develop young people who will grow into responsible adults who can thrive and enjoy life (as in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – and go on to contribute to a healthy society. That’s the hope of all parents no matter where they reside today on the social ladder.
But first we have to dispel of the popular notion by many that all children are not worthy of these opportunities, that somehow they (or their parents) are not allowed to have a better life. That’s utterly stupid, selfish, and goes against all the tenets of our American way of life. It’s, I suppose, born out of ignorance and fear of someone being equal to others. What is it about America that makes one group afraid to share in prosperity and security with another group? You can share things without giving up those same things yourself. Think about it. Then let’s start thinking about the kids for a change – and how we treat each other, in the legislation we pass, in how we fund schools and more.
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