Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

The Innocent Faces of Poverty

Aug 19, 2011

In the dialogue over fluctuating markets, plummeting Dow numbers and nervous investors, the one group that is impacted perhaps most directly by everything is virtually left out of the conversation. The poor. Not only have the most vulnerable among us been ignored and further marginalized, but the very face of poverty has transformed in the most shocking of ways. As parents lose their employment, entire families face eviction and health care is an unimaginable luxury, innocent children are tragically becoming an increasing segment of the destitute. According to a new study, 1 in 5 kids in the most powerful nation on earth now live in poverty.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation this week released its findings on child poverty rates from 2000-2009. According to the foundation's research, 20% of our youth live in poverty and child poverty rates increased in 38 states during the years indicated in the study. So in other words, there has been a growth of 2.5 million additional kids now living at or below the poverty line -- which, for those who continually want to attack the poor, is only $22,350/yr. for a family of four. Sadly, the economic downfall of the past few years has only exacerbated the problem.

Almost every single day we hear the impoverished referred to as 'welfare recipients' and brandied about as if they were an evil group somehow responsible for our demise. In reality, Wall St. fat cats, predatory lenders and corporations with endless loopholes made a killing and left the rest of us to deal with the debt and mess. There is a great divide in this nation that is growing larger with each passing day. The NY Times recently ran a cover story stating the rich had no difficulty in spending and as a result, high-end retailers literally have waiting lists for items like $1500 shoes. While some are living the life of extravagance, many children won't even have enough clothes to begin the school year - let alone stay warm during the colder months.

There was a time when the word homeless would conjure up images of a lone bearded man walking the streets begging for money. Today, the face of poverty is increasingly becoming young boys and girls dealt an unjust hand in life. As the study indicated, children who are raised under dire circumstances find it difficult to obtain an adequate education, employment and housing in the future. A vicious cycle ensues that leaves everyone to bear the consequences.

We often see troubling examples of the indigent in many developing countries around the world, but this crisis is happening right here, right now in our own backyards. In the a country with such vast wealth and resources, how can we allow children to go to bed hungry at night, live in shelters or on the street and then turn around and continue to penalize their parents? Instead of actually creating jobs, many elected officials and those vying to be elected, want to reduce unemployment benefits, eliminate food stamps and continually blame the innocent for our current problems.

As the 2012 campaign kicks into full-gear, so will the anti-poor hate rhetoric designed to do nothing but get many to vote against their own interests. But before we fall victim to the notion of divide and conquer, let us remember that poverty knows no color, and our forgotten children comprise all racial/ethnic backgrounds.

And perhaps most importantly, let us remember the lesson of all the world's greatest religions - stand alongside the weakest amongst you.