Too often in our society, the discussion and narrative regarding poverty in urban communities is generalized into stereotypes of the haves and have-nots. Talk is controlled by political figures who are either lacking in first-hand experience of poverty, or who come from backgrounds that are not African-American. This being the case, finding a root from which the poverty tree grows is next to impossible. The purpose of this letter is to step out of the box into which we throw the African-American experience with poverty, and provide small step solutions to attack the issue. Ideally, these will be solutions that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.
The average Caucasian-American has a net worth of 100,000. This may seem impressive, until the reality of the average African-American experience is revealed: up to a mere 7000 in net worth, compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Obviously, even to the untrained eye this is a problem. This speaks to something greater than wages. This demonstrates there are entire generations of African-Americans with no transferable wealth. Low wages, and a lack of education regarding life insurance, have left millions of African American families since the 1920s to continue living below the poverty line. Do I propose we play Robin Hood, taking from one group and giving to another? Of course not. But we are witnessing a wealth gap which demonstrates a generational trend.
Stereotypes of the average African-American poverty experience abound. Concepts such as lazy, dumb, unskilled, lacking in work ethic, or just wanting a hand out, are thrown around far too much. Congress is guilty of perpetuating these stereotypes – offensive, given that the average member of congress works less days than the average minimum wage worker. Congress has proven time and time again in the last four years they are incapable of doing the job the American people put them in a position to complete. In regards to this issue, what tangible skills has Congress exhibited, aside from obstruction? This brings to mind a popular saying, wherein those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
This country was built on the concepts of free market and competition. The minimum wage problem is intertwined with those American concepts. It is a fact that entrepreneurs and small businesses are the real job creators. If we do not cut the red tape in Washington to allow all Americans the opportunity to compete, the current trend of a slow economy will continue. Raising the minimum wage would create more wealth in the African-American community, along with producing more competitors in our free market society. Current attitudes are hindering this competition, a frankly unamerican outlook. To assume that all people living below the poverty line embody the above stereotypes, deprives hardworking, simply underprivelaged individuals of the opportunity to compete.
To summarize, African-Americans have endured the economic struggle for an excessive amount of time. Smart solutions such as access to education regarding affordable life insurance, or the raising of the federal minimum wage are possible first steps in addressing this issue. Unfortunately, history would indicate that we will see no changes in outlook within the current Congress. However, there is a positive afterthought. Midterm elections are on the horizon.