Last week, I was driving through some low-income neighborhoods in our nation’s capital, noticing how the liquor stores outnumbered any other form of commerce by 10:1. This is often called liquorlining, and it is an exploitation of those for whom there is less hope. I thought of how we allow that to endure and how we allow kids to grow up in a country that has so much, and yet they have so little.
The band-aids we put on crime and drugs, on drop-out rates and all the other casualties of poverty leave us with some big work to do.
Those of you who were around or even part of the efforts that led to civil rights advances – the job is closer to done. But Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue – at least in DC – is far from what he would want his street to look like. It is one of the worst examples of liquorlining and it is a call for help as loud as a call can be.
For those of us who were not part of that effort, ending poverty is the movement in need of our attention today. It represents the opportunity we have to make the most of all that we have each been given. Poverty leads to more lost lives and lost potential than any other factor; it puts more people onto the streets and more people into prisons. It leaves few choices and few chances for our neighbors.
And we can change this. If people truly are a product of their environments, we need to change it.