An interesting thing has happened as a result of the election cycle for president. Suddenly, the conservative wing of our political structure has discovered there is a drug problem in this nation that requires more than incarceration. As they have discovered this fact, they have spoken eloquently about the problem. One of the most eloquent spokesman on the subject has been Chris Christie. His story involved a young man who was attending law school at the same time as Christie, who eventually lost everything because of his drug use.
As a result of this exposure to our drug problem, we are now talking about the issue in terms of the role mandatory sentencing has paid in the “war against drugs.” In response, our conservative, “law and order” candidates, are now talking about the need to use mandatory drug treatment instead of prison. What has caused this turn around in thinking?
Well, Ohio Governor and Republican candidate for president, John Kasich, made an interesting observation. Mr. Kasich wondered aloud how the African American people might feel about this new emphasis, given the fact that the over prosecution of drugs has ravished their community, but is only now being discussed publicly. What Governor Kasich might also have observed on reflection, is the fact that all the stories have involved Caucasians. For example, the lead stories have been Governor Christie’s law schoolmate and Carlie Fiorina’s daughter. Added to this, is the fact that the whole issue came to light in New Hampshire, an overwhelmingly white area, where prescription drug abuse is the problem.
The point I wish to make in this posting, is the fact that racism is still alive and well. For example, with a rise in the Dow Jones of over 10,000 points, a cut in the jobless rate by 50%, and a job market that has added an average of over 150,000 jobs a month, I wonder how President Obama’s presidency would be evaluated if he were white? Part of the struggle of working with the poor is the image people have of a poor person. For example, ask someone to close their eyes and describe a person who is poor, single, has children and is on food stamps, and see what happens. If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, after all, black people are the majority of this group,” you are wrong. In a recent study on Poverty in Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Poverty Task Force found the following, located on page 9 of the study, “More Virginians in poverty are white than non-white and more are working than not working contradicting a common image of poverty.”
The fact remains, that racism is still a leading factor in poverty. As a result, as a percentage of the population, African Americans are over represented among those in poverty. This is why Heart of Compassion Partnerships is focusing its work in the area’s we do. This is why Heart of Compassion Partnerships engages in activities like, “A Conversation on Race.” Poverty cannot be effectively addressed if racism is not effectively addressed. As former President Harry Truman once said, “If you’re going to keep a black man in the gutter, you’re going to need two white men to keep him there.” In the coming weeks, I hope to lay out for you our 2016 emphasis on ending poverty. Your comments, as always, are welcome.