Skip to content

Not Lepers

December 14, 2014

Black student welders at Chicago Opportunities Industrialization Center, Photo by John White, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park (ARC Identifier 556267)

And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’ ” (Matthew 8: 2).

Poor Start

Once the way out of poverty, education is no longer seen as paving the road to a viable future. With inner city schools devastated, children are no longer provided the tools necessary to cope with an adult world. Basic math and language skills (vocabulary, grammar, punctuation) are foreign, as is the idea of gradual, steady improvement.

This is a poor start for anyone.

Few skills

As a result, young people raised in poverty possess few marketable skills. This includes the “soft” skills of regular attendance and punctuality, associated with job readiness.

Without the opportunity to acquire such skills, inner city youth are condemned to menial jobs offering few opportunities for advancement. Indeed, genuine opportunities may go unrecognized, since they would require time and patience which the young feel they cannot afford.

The work ethic is, also, undermined by the fact inner city youth see few models of success around them. It is the drug dealer on the street corner who has cash.

Some choose to limit their options to public assistance.  But children are not born with such limitations on their dreams.

Crime and Drugs

Certainly, some are drawn to crime. The streets offer the appeal of “fast money” in contrast to the time and effort required by legitimate employment. Many more individuals fall victim to crime, beaten into senselessness by the tragedy pervading their lives.

Mothers protest against the violence that has robbed them of their children, while daily still more children are gunned down or lost to the downward spiral of drugs. The appeal of partying and drugs lies not only in the excitement they promise, but the temporary relief from reality they provide.  Some individuals choose this bleak road.

Bias, Fear and Rage

When race and ethnicity are added to the mix, bias enters the picture. Bias is a genuine and longstanding obstacle, a blot on our national pride. Regrettably, it is not the only obstacle.

Fear of the unknown – the internalization of the slum – is a powerful barrier. It continues to keep people from leaving the familiarity of their neighborhoods, even when other barriers have at long last been reduced or eliminated.

Rage and its alternative, apathy, can be such pervasive legacies of poverty that they interfere both with work and family life.

Often associated with rage is the greatly heightened sensitivity to slights reflective of a fragile ego. Coupled with this are unrealistic expectations, chimera. These fill the vacuum left when dreams go unfulfilled too long. A boy with no hope of becoming a lawyer (or even a union electrician) longs to become a rap star. A girl with no chance of becoming a physician or artist trades on her sexuality as the only thing she has.

These are not lepers. They are not unclean. These are our children. We cannot simply write them off as worthless or pretend they do not exist.

What We Need

What we need is housing rehabilitation on a large scale, along with neighborhood-based community revitalization. What we need are better (and safer) schools. What we need is public assistance that provides a reasonable standard of living to those truly unable to support themselves. For the rest, we need job training programs across a broad spectrum, linked to jobs with the potential for real upward mobility.

What we need is genuine involvement by those who have benefited from this country’s vast wealth and resources. What we need is a commitment to salvage our cities – not just their gleaming towers, but the people who inhabit their darkest corners.

Rebuilding from rubble is an immense, but not unprecedented, challenge. It was undertaken in Germany after World War II. Project HOME and Habitat for Humanity provide us with two non-governmental models.

These are our children, our brothers and sisters. We toss them aside at our peril, diminishing our own humanity, in the process.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed.com

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: