“‘Wasi’chu’ is a Lakota word that means ‘non-Indian,’ but another version of this word means ‘the one who takes the best meat for himself…It means greedy.”- Aaron Huey
What good are promises made to a stigmatized people? Stigmas are created to enable discrimination against a group of people. Once the discrimination is effective enough, the next step, the easy and “justified” disposal of those stigmatized can begin. The end game is the absolute control of a race’s or discriminated group’s livelihood, well-being and destiny. In many instances this has ultimately lead to historical and current events of genocide: Wasi’chu Power: A True Look at Genocide. In other instances, it leads to the complete and systematic disempowerment of groups who have no route out of poverty.
Step rungs of opportunity on the ladder to success such as an intact and high quality public education system, affordable and comprehensive access to health care, the prospect of constructive and fulfilling employment have been systematically destroyed or weakened to the point of useless futility. What has taken the place of the mythological ladder to success in America is a vicious monopoly board game where one’s chance of upward mobility has been diminished to a roll of the dice coupled with monstrously hard work, vision and/or talent.
In a more equitable environment where not possessing either of the afore-mentioned attributes would not guarantee you a room in an asylum, an appointment with your social worker or Family Services Division case manager, a date with your dealer, a cell in prison or prematurely on a refrigerator tray in a morgue, one could more easily accept the differences in income distribution. This, however, is not the case in America and it is not limited to large urban centers where bigger populations of minorities and “recent” immigrants live. The same is true in the furthest reaches of our nation, whether on reservations or in rural towns and counties as evidenced by high rates of military enrollment, incarceration, violence, drug & alcohol abuse and the need for federal assistance programs. The location may be different, the skin color may be different and the drug of choice may be different but the odds are similar and poverty is omnipresent.
These facts are what propelled Dr. Martin Luther King to expand the reach of the Civil Rights Movement to not only address poverty but to radically fight it with all of the peaceful means of protest that had proven successful in fighting racism. I firmly believe that this focus on the deadly systemic effects of our poverty paradigm on all people who were disempowered is what cost him his life for it called into question the very principles of our socio-economic model of capitalism. As many should now be able to clearly see, poverty and its subsequently deep and broad injustices are flourishing in our country. And like Dr. King, I know that it is essential for all of our well-being that America invest in eradicating poverty. I, however, know that it will take more than billions. It will require a modern day Marshall Plan to rebuild this nation. And in order to provide all citizens with their basic human rights, a new social compact based upon The Universal Declaration of Human Rights & The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and committed to guaranteeing these fundamental rights must supersede our present one.
Currently, we are paying highly hypocritical lip service to these and associated declarations as exemplified by our malignant education system, our lack of universal health coverage and other tragic demographic statistics while other industrialized nations are determinedly striving to ensure the rights set forth in these treaties. We allow this because huge cross sections of people in this country have been stigmatized. We enable this because we have been convinced and convince each other that the stigmatized should be deservedly disempowered. And as long as we keep these convictions, empty promises will continue to be made to improve the situation of the impoverished while everyone’s future is whittled away.
Please click on the following links for more information on The Poor People’s Campaign:
For up-to-date information on the ravaging effects of poverty on our future, our children, as well as to learn about your potential to help, please visit The Children’s Defense Fund.
Also, please watch Tavis Smiley tonight on PBS to see Marian Wright Edelman & Dr. Mary Francis Berry on the work being done to make our dream a reality (please check your local listings).