I’m 40 years old. I’ve spent much of my adult life struggling with my esteem, my self worth, and my financial worth. I keep trying to crawl up to be above the Poverty Line. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life being told how awful the place I lived was. I was told how bad my house is. I was told how my interests and beliefs don’t matter. I was taught to believe I would never amount to anything. I was taught to believe the place I lived was no good. I was taught not to like my surroundings. I was taught to believe there isn’t any hope. And much of these teachings came from inside my own house.
I’m one person. I’m only one person. I’m one person that’s been in a holding pattern in life. Sometimes I say I’m rebuilding. Sometimes I just think I’m building. But, I’m just one person. I’m one person that has the same opportunity as everyone else in the United States of America has. I’m one person that has the same chances and the same rights as everyone else has, right? In theory, yes, but in practice?
Imagine the story I just told about myself from a different perspective. Imagine you came from a family in a much more economically challenged area than I live in. Imagine you came from a family of people that weren’t granted equal rights as everyone else until 50 years ago. Imagine, while you were able to go to school and get a job like everyone else, you weren’t paid the same. Now imagine that it’s now illegal for you to not have the same opportunities as everyone else, but you’ve been behind the curve for so long that it’s more difficult to catch up. Now imagine just after you’ve been granted these opportunities, the economic system in the country you live in drastically changes and doesn’t seem to help out the people on the bottom and in the middle as much as it does the people at top. And imagine you’re told by the people in your community that there’s no hope and the people outside your community always look down upon you and let you know it. Just imagine how frustrated and angry you may be?
As I said, I’m just one person. Imagine it’s an entire race, or ethnicity, of people. It’s not hard to imagine, because it’s what’s been happening for years. I know people will read this and immediately start talking about how there’s welfare and other social safety net solutions to help the poor communities, but do you know what would help them a lot more? A reversal of fortune due to a reversal of economic policies currently in place designed to help very few.
When discussing something with a former co-worker, I mentioned towns like Paterson, Newark, and Camden. They’re all in New Jersey and they’re all predominantly minority in demographics. They’re all crime ridden areas. And they were all once thriving areas. When I said something about those towns being bad areas, the reply was “what do they all have in common?” Yes, the implication was they’re all bad because they’re minorities. Well, how about they’re all bad areas because society has left them behind. They’re bad areas because for 35 years, this country has catered to the rich and has left the poor behind. In a cause/effect scenario, they’re not the initial cause. The places they live and the conditions they live in are the effect.
In 1981, the “Trickle Down Economic” plan was put into place. It lowered taxes on the wealthy and raised taxes on the middle class (multiple times). The idea was if the rich had more money, they would create more businesses. More businesses would mean more jobs. More jobs would mean more people would make more money. More money would boost a somewhat stagnant economy. It’s been 35 years. The trickle never happened. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. And the hopes of many people, communities, and cities diminished.
I have been working multiple jobs for a few years now. I have been spending more money in that time period than I had since I used credit cards. I’ve also been saving money. Of course, I have almost no free time now. Just imagine if I was able to make the amount of money I make per week, working one job, and only 40 hours. And imagine if everyone else had the same opportunity. We would have a thriving economy. It’s a simple concept.
And before anyone states that if I had better jobs or a better education, let me state that I have worked full-time jobs for over 20 years. I’m currently working multiple part-time jobs due to circumstances beyond my control. But while working full-time jobs, I was still under the poverty line. 32-40 hours per week and needing a second job just to be able to afford enough enough gas in my car to get to the grocery store to buy enough food to last until my next paycheck, but I’m just one person. I don’t have children or anyone else relying on my income. I’m just one person.
I’m just one person that has read a lot about history and politics. I’ve read enough to know that after all of the social programs that were put into place in the 1930s by President Franklin Roosevelt after the Great Depression, our country thrived. People had jobs. They had protections in place to make sure they had job security. People earned enough money working one 40 hour per week job that it wasn’t necessary for two parents to work in one household. In many cases, the father worked and the mother stayed home with the kids. That simple trait isn’t an option for most people now.
Our country’s infrastructure was built in the 1940s and 1950s. Our Interstate Highway system was constructed and paid for by tax dollars and tolls. The country’s highways and bridges have fallen into disrepair over the past few years as less and less tax dollars have come in.
Is it a coincidence that we don’t see as many “one bread winner” households now? Is it a coincidence that our roads look the way they do now? No, it’s not. The Trickle didn’t happen. And it never will.
Our inner cities are failing. The people in those places are not to blame. Many of the people in those cities have never been given the chances that their somewhat recently acquired rights have granted them. Those cities don’t have tax revenue. They don’t have anything in place to keep them going.
I admit this entry is a bit disjointed. But, I’m trying to cram in as much as I can into as short of an entry as I can because I actually want people to read it. With more time to commit to the entry, I could probably load it with quotes, statistics, and other researched facts. But, as I’ve said a few times, I’m just one person. I’m one person that has read a lot about social and economic issues. And I’m one person whose voice has often been silenced.But I’m one person that based on skin tone, many of you think has had a better chance than people that look differently than me. To some degree, I have had more chances, but that doesn’t mean the system is set up to be in my favor. The chances granted to me often come from how I look and who I know. It’s not necessarily due to anything else.
I’m just one person. But, I’m one person that knows how the system is played. I’m one person that knows the game needs to change. I’m one person that has a voice, even if it’s only really heard here, and only by a handful of people.
Change is needed. And change often starts with just one person.