"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Racism and Poverty, Two Struggles with One Goal
By Chioma Adaku

Racism and poverty are not only two struggles with one goal, but it’s ironic how I lived in an all Black neighborhood facing poverty and then was bused to a majority White school to endure racism. There is a segment of the population ran and ruled by a group of people who have power and privilege because of their ethnic group; while another population is allowed to suffer from poverty, inadequate education, and injustices because of their ethnic group.

In America, we have two educational systems: one encompasses effective schools holding high expectations for their students located in affluent and stable communities; the other, ineffective schools which communicate low expectations and aspirations for their students, who are not given full opportunity to succeed. Where you live determines the chances you get in this world. It determines the school your children go to, the types of crimes they are exposed to, and the peer influences on your children.

When most folks think of privilege, they totally disconnect it from a benefit of an ethnic group. When they think of racism, it is considered what you have said or done to offend someone; not knowing that it is a system that is designed to benefit a segment of the population based on their ethnic group that automatically gives them power and privilege over other ethnic groups. So what does this mean? Let’s do the math…it means that if you are born in a certain ethnic group you receive certain benefits of power and privilege. Black people cannot be racist; as a whole they are not beneficiaries of a system of privilege and power because of their ethnic group; but yes, they can be prejudice. The history of racism and the struggle for equality in the United States for Black people is far broader and complex than can be covered in this brief overview.

The framework of racism and poverty presents two struggles with one goal; to oppress a segment of the population based on their ethnic group. It is not rocket science that when a White Woman walks down the street, she holds her purse firmly as she passes a Black man; no matter if he is wearing a Suit or saggy pants. It is not a secret that when a Black woman shops in a grocery store once a month and approaches the counter, the first reaction she gets from the clerk is, “will this be food stamps?” It is no coincidence that when Black Katrina victims were gathering food they were looting and when White victims were gathering food they were trying to provide for their families.

In today's world it is considered impractical to talk about racism and poverty. But in the face of systematic problems that confront a viable and enlivening society for all those impacted by racism and poverty, we must find ways to develop and share a commitment to democratically discuss and unshackle these dividers. How can we expect society to be free of oppression, if we keep honoring diversity and not building democracy?

Chioma Adaku serves as the National Coordinator for National Welfare Engine.
posted by R J Noriega at 4:49 PM | Permalink |


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