A sad reality: In a season of giving, most will ignore America’s poor
A number of people will ignore this column. It’s not a piece bashing Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris, so many readers will move on to a preferred partisan beat-down. After all, who really cares about the poor living in America’s cities?
While recent headlines from newspapers in a few major cities scream out why we all should care, reality tells us that not many will — certainly not many politicians. For them, the inner-city poor are either statistics to be exploited for political gain or nonexistent shadows who represent no political or vote-gaining advantage.
Poor people rarely are seen as the desperate, frightened men, women and children they can be. Their pain is often turned into obscene political performance art, or completely disregarded. To say that our nation has failed these folks would be an understatement.
Beyond the politicians, do many others actually care for the millions of poor and disenfranchised urban Americans (most of them minorities)? Plenty of pundits, academics and organizations will claim they do, but again, reality tells a much different, tragic story.
I pay attention to this demographic for several reasons. Chief among them is that during my childhood, I was counted among the inner-city poor. My family was evicted often, and sometimes we were homeless. A white child, I often lived in housing projects that were mostly inhabited by minorities. Nothing about the situation was academic to me — nor should it be for anyone.
One of the main reasons that so few actually care about the poor is that they have no voice.
Although this issue should never be politicized, when it comes to the plight of the poor we must hold the leaders of America’s cities accountable. Right now, many of those leaders are Democrats; some are minorities themselves.
Decades ago, America’s major cities were run by white, male Republicans who had little or no interest in the poor inhabiting their cities; they did what they could to hide the suffering of these constituents from the rest of the nation. But, if our city “leaders” are failing the poor, we have an obligation to call them out. As these headlines remind us, lives are literally at stake if we do nothing:
- The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Almost 500 people dead: Philadelphia is about to set a grim record for homicides”;
- A Baltimore Sun commentary: “300 and counting: Baltimore’s appalling homicide tally, now routine, requires more than the usual response”;
- The Washington Post: “D.C. records 200th homicide of the year, a mark not seen since 2003”; and
- The Chicago Tribune: “As the Black population continues to drop in Chicago and Illinois, few regret their move: ‘I have peace.’”
These headlines — while perhaps honestly reflecting the concern felt by the editors and reporters of those news sites — don’t let the readers in on a critically important disconnect. Within those same cities, most of the mainstream media lean left or far left and, therefore, can be hesitant to criticize the obvious failures of the Democratic leadership of the cities on which they report.
Some members of the media apparently don’t want to betray these Democrats — or to give Republicans any talking points — by calling them out for their repeated failures. The most destructive “failure” is that thousands of people — again, mostly minorities — are being killed in America’s cities every year. Most of these murders are overlooked by politicians, and even members of the media, but they have a demonstrative effect on those in the line of fire and their families.
As of 2020, Chicago’s Black population had dropped to about 788,000, the lowest since the mid-1950s. Why? People have been fleeing the inner city because of safety concerns; they want peace of mind. Said a former Chicago Transit Authority worker on how life was better in Phoenix after he left Chicago: “Things you can do here you can’t do in Chicago, like sit outside at night, go for walks at night.”
When asked about returning to Chicago for visits, the former bus driver said: “It made me nervous, honestly. I got carjacked. It was a rough experience. I’ve been shot at on the CTA bus twice. Two burglaries in Oak Park, and twice more in Chicago. There was a lot going on in Chicago, a lot of violence, a lot of death. I felt like I didn’t have peace.”
The suffering of millions of Americans should never be swept under the rug or ignored because we don’t want to implicate the political party in charge at the moment, or give the other side horrifying statistics to use against us. Concern for human life must always come first.
Last year in Chicago, almost 800 people were murdered. Over the past 63 years, more than 40,000 people have been killed in Chicago and more than 100,000 wounded. Thousands of them were children. This, in just one American city. Add in the murders in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Houston, and you easily eclipse the number of American servicemen killed in World War II.
Those numbers seem surreal, but they do not lie. Each represents a life violently taken, and these killings are an indictment against America’s political leaders, media and academics who mostly pay insulting lip service to the forsaken men, women and children who live in poverty in our cities.
Why is it that elites from both sides of the political divide would rather scream at each other about wokeness, the Proud Boys, critical race theory and white supremacy while countless people living in America’s cities are dealing with true difficulties — thefts, assaults and homicides, food insecurity, lack of education, brutal winters with no money for heat, and businesses and jobs fleeing their neighborhoods?
The inner-city poor — who cares? Unfortunately, few of their fellow Americans, it seems. It’s a sad commentary as we start the holiday season.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.