Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I'd Say to Newt Gingrich

Everyone has heard Newt Gingrich say this:

He then expounded, and suggested that custodial unions be disbanded/fired, and the students of the public schools do janitorial labour on their own school in order to learn the work ethic that they don't see at home.

Of course, response is as you'd expect it: There were some initial angry responses from the left noting that the notion of inner city kids only knowing crime as a way of life was veiled racism, and applaud and agreement with his statement from the right , dishing up the notion that poor people are poor because it's their own fault, and some veiled racist statements for garnish. After all, this IS America. What's a political statement without a smattering of racism?

As the dust settled, though, we got some better, well-versed essays, like Travon Free's An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich from a Black Kid Who Grew Up in a Poor Neighbourhood. I liked it, and agree with most of what he said, as I was a poor black kid, too, and identified with much of what he said. There were some less educated essays that sounded smart, like Gene Marks' If I Were a Poor Black Kid in Forbes. Mr. Marks' ideas would be great, but he assumes a lot of public schools. They are NOT all bastions of technology and world access as he infers. The money that would have funded a lot of the avenues he says poor black kids should use has been cut due to lack of public funding. Education initiatives are always one of the main items on the chopping block when Congress wants to cut funds. However, they have the audacity to complain when our children are falling behind in education compared to the rest of the world! Also, Marks assumes that children have adult brains, and would figure out on their own that their home environment is not an ideal one, and that they would just automatically know that there are ways to progress. His was just a callous statement all together that served more to troll for internet acrimony than resolve any issues.

A friend asked me if Forbes asked me to write about being a poor black kid, would it sound something like Travon Free's open letter. I think it would, but more attuned to what actually happened to me.

I wouldn't put bring up race, because that is precisely what he'd want you to do, so that he could then say you're a race-baiter, and that's all lefties do, because racism doesn't exist in this country any more...unless, of course a black Republican candidate gets caught sexually harassing women or f***ing someone behind his wife's back for 13 years. Then, all of a sudden, it's blatant racism. But I digress...

This is what I would say to Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Marks, for that matter:
Dear Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Marks,
Your "solutions" to rid this country of poverty are flawed in a major way. Your quick dismissal of the poor youth as either being surrounded by shiftless criminals as role models or surrounded by opportunities that they choose not to utilise show how little you know of the country in which you live. I grew up in two poor areas of the country. Though worlds apart, a key similarity glared through. It was not the role models with no work habits that held children back. On the contrary, the parents and adults that I saw worked tirelessly, to the point that I barely saw them. They worked two and three jobs, sometimes starting from 4:00am, and not getting home until well after 9:00pm. They would work on all days, including weekends. There was a criminal element, yes, but most children were shielded from that by our caring parents/guardians.
What held children back was the lack of protection from threats closer to home. Many of us suffered physical, mental, and other abuse, if not at home, than from people we were told we could and should trust, and no one did anything about it. Our cries for help fell on deaf ears. Therefore, we thought it was normal to be treated as such, no matter how horrifying it was. It wasn't until we got a little bit older that some of us realised there was something very wrong with was was happening, and were determined to change it. We didn't have to clean toilets to learn that we did not want to be in the situation we were in.
Neither of you have lived in poverty. You have not seen the fact that there is a place to buy liquor and junk food on nearly every corner, but no place to buy fresh food and books within walking distance. Gene, all the money that went to fund computer labs and arts programmes in suburban went to fund metal detectors and barred windows in inner city schools. our neighbourhoods had to reallocate funds, because the social and recreational programmes that have been proven to keep crime rates down in cities keep getting slashed by Congress so that they can either give themselves raises or subsidise their lobbyists' interests. If you were a poor black kid, you would have had to take three to four buses to get to the nearest place where you would have access to all the things you mentioned in your essay. Even then, once the people who ran the place saw you, the campus police would have assumed the worst of you and booted you off the campus. This is all, of course if you were able to successfully traverse the various gang territories without being harassed or hurt.
Newt, I am not sure how much work you could have done yourself, as you were a military brat for quite some time, and you went straight from high school to college, not being able to join the military for "health reasons". I started working at age 16, right after we were evicted from our home. My grades, though high Bs and low As, were not as high as they could have been my last year of high school and part of college, because I was homeless. On top of that, I had to work two jobs in between my 16+ credit hours per semester. I wonder how you would fare in my situation?
People like you two are quick to come up with solutions to problems of which you know nothing. Those of us who do and work on projects to try to remedy the problems get shut down by people like you because you don't understand how solution X will help with problem Y. You resent the poor, as if they chose to be this way so that they could get government aid. No one chooses this for themselves. The government aid is its own prison of despair. The poor in this country are on a hamster wheel of two or three jobs, no affordable education, and no time for education, due to the two to three jobs. They are trying to keep a roof over their heads, all while trying to make sure their children are safe. The poor in this country used to have houses, but because deregulated banks entrapped them in loans that they did not realise they could not eventually pay, and because the banks all conveniently lost all appeals paperwork, they were dumped on the street. The poor are the janitors you wish so much to fire and replace with their children. You know nothing of poverty, and you therefore make uneducated, callous statements. Leave the solutions to the poverty/education problem to those of us who survived and conquered our situations. We know much better than you ever would. You got your sound bites and got your viral responses. I hope that what little support you get were worth the obdurate statements you used to get them.

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