I applaud the President’s efforts to engage the private sector and government in his initiative, to create more opportunities for young minority men and to improve conditions that keep them impoverished and imprisoned in disproportionate numbers.
However, its tepid rollout reflects the political reality of his limitations and that is part of the problem. There is no doubt this will help. The tragedy is that this is the signature assistance for the nation’s minority youth from our president.
This is not principally his fault. He is a victim of the same institutional racism that keeps people poor by failing to provide resources of opportunity through better health care, education, and jobs that pay a living wage.
Saddled with an historic recession, and vulnerable to criticism of being a president only for black people, he has been excruciatingly cautious about issues of race. His naiveté to the virulence of the racism he would encounter, that remains dedicated to destroying his presidency, made him avoid these issues in the hope he could broker progress by reaching across the aisle to find common ground.
He found no willing hand. He might as well have played to his base and stood firm on issues regarding equal access to resources and opportunity.
The fundamental problem in this country is that for the last 34 years since the Reagan presidency, when greed became good, the distribution of wealth has become increasingly more unequal.
Today, the top 1% of Americans own 42% of the financial wealth. The top 5%, meanwhile, own nearly 70%. The bottom 80% owns 7%. CEO pay is now 350X the average worker’s, up from 50X from 1960-1985. http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1#ixzz2vhcPw2w7
The US has the highest income inequality among developed countries, and is the only one where the income gap is getting wider and not smaller. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/income-inequality-wall-street_n_3762422.html
The problem is the economic system, and the social underpinning it receives from social institutions, that has conjured acceptance of the status quo from the masses. Our economic system and the institutions that support it were created to benefit a specific class of people. That system remains in place today, and has been strengthened by laws that validate disproportionate access to government to wealthy people.
We accept the enduring myth that people are poor because they are lazy. This is often heard in the more benign but no less vulgar assertion that poor people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There are poor people for many reasons, but the prime reason is they are not valued. Their labor is cheap and their earnings are exploited.
The solution to this is multi-faceted, but one obvious place to begin is to get money out of politics. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. The plight of minorities is inextricably linked to the plight of poor people in general.
In America, as Watergate taught us, sadly, the answer to any question is nearly always, “Follow the Money.”