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Poverty: Not Equal Opportunity

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“Classism is what we need to be discussing in this country because poverty does not see color.” @amystretten posted this tweet and @donlemoncnn retweeted it. Obviously he agreed and found it compelling. I was drawn to it, also. While I do agree that classism needs to be discussed in our country, especially in the midst of the Republicans so adamantly against having people of higher economic classes pay more taxes as gesture of fairness and establishing balance, I would amend the latter portion of the statement by saying poverty does not see race, equally. Poverty is not an equal opportunity condition.

According to the US Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 16% compared to the national unemployment rate of 9.2%.  We all know employment and the ability to be employed are directly related to a person’s relationship to poverty.  Interestingly, the group with the lowest unemployment rate was Asians.  Without having to produce loads of statistics a couple of bottom lines come to mind.

1. There are poor people all over the world, but specifically all over the United States of America. Since we can acknowledge this fact, it is safe to say that poverty does not discriminate, but it does disproportionately affect the lives of peoples labeled as members of certain minority groups.

2. Poverty does not just happen. It is a product of a system. And, although poverty is not a natural phenomenon, it occurs because of other factors that assist in its onset. A lack of education, discrimination in areas of race, gender, age, and other areas all work to make poverty possible.

3. Poverty can be overcome, but not without greater community supports.

While reading the statistics, I found it compelling but also logical that Asians had the lowest unemployment rates.  In almost all low socio-economic neighborhoods, Asians have developed their own employment opportunities by creating their own businesses. They are self-employed communities. There are nail and beauty shops that are owned by various groups within the Asian community. These places of employment hire other Asians so that they will not be unemployed.

There is a lesson to be learned from Asian people living in America in these economic times: When there are no jobs, make your own, hire your own, and control your own wealth.  For some groups, the psychology behind getting started and getting ahead is this caveat that either helps or hinders productivity. Either way, poverty does not see race equally. Perhaps what’s an even better statement is races don’t respond to poverty either, equally.

Go to www.bls.gov or www.nul.org for more information.


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