If you look at the 20 cities in the United States that have had the most murders so far this year, you will see that there have been more than 2,500 murders.
Who do you think gets murdered, and who do you think is doing the murdering?
If your answer to both is people in poverty, then you are correct. Yet our discussions about this still focus on guns, bad people, or people who make bad decisions. All of those can make sense if we want to live at the symptom level of things. If we really want to solve this, however, then we have to go to the cause. And the cause is poverty.
Every time I read that a person was murdered I know that at least two lives will be lost. One person’s life is literally over and another person or other people are going to prison, which, because of the crime, they should.
What we have here is a crisis that steals lives and potential and that forces people into living conditions from birth that we would never tolerate for our loved ones. When we see that, we come to the only correct conclusion: we do not love our fellow human beings enough.
We loved our brothers and sisters when Katrina hit; everybody wanted to help and we did a lot of good. We continue to help people in that region, and we spend millions upon millions of dollars to help there, as we should. 1,800 people died because of Katrina. It was a disaster and a crisis.
Every summer, every season, every day, poverty is a crisis. 2,500 lives lost this year, 2,500 next year – at least. Young children, older children – individuals who have never known any other life besides one steeped in poverty.
It will not stop being a crisis until we end it. Are we going to respond with commitment, or are we going to fiddle around and work at the symptom level while our brothers and sisters lose their lives? Will we sit around and watch their neighborhoods burn up with gunfire or will we address the cause?
Guns are available to anybody in this county – why would a young man in poverty choose to kill someone more than someone not in poverty? Is it possible that living in poverty shrinks your choices so much that you see no other way out or through? Is it possible that poverty can be crippling from birth, in every way – intellectually, emotionally, environmentally?
Is it the case that where opportunities and hope abound for people born into middle- and upper- income environments, they seem unattainable to those in low-income environments? Is it the case that when we do improve low-income environments, those who had lived there are pushed out, unable to remain and enjoy the fruits of the improved neighborhoods?
We treat people in poverty as if it is their fault, as if we are better than them because we were born into a better situation. It is the height of judgement and objectification and the pinnacle of inhumanity.
If we are going to be a compassionate country as we like to say we are, then we have to commit to ending poverty for one individual and one family after another. True commitment is the key. When we commit, we succeed, and when enough of us commit, all of us will see that it is possible.
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