In a recent Op-Ed piece entitled “The Crisis of Minority Employment,” the New York Times Editors make it clear that Congress’s abandonment of subsidized work programs for minorities is not only a threat to the economic viability of our cities, but is also shortsighted – sacrificing the long term economic and social wellbeing of a large segments of our population with the excuse that we can’t afford it. “…Getting jobless young people into the world of work is valuable in itself. Work reduces alienation, gives people a stake in society and allows children in poor communities to absorb the ethic they need to be successful.”
And they are correct: by shutting down such programs, Congress is abandoning its responsibility to provide for the common good – of all, not just for some.
The common complaint we hear from many – both in and out of Congress – who reject the idea of providing help to the poor in any form is that all “they” want is a handout. The thinking is that somehow (because of the stereotype we have created in our own minds that they are uneducated druggies and street criminals) minority youth do not deserve our help.
Saying such things is taking the easy out of “blaming the victim” – a tactic that denies that we who benefit from “the system” have any responsibility for its effects upon others; and even denies that we ourselves benefit from “the system” at all. (Talking about how we who are white benefit from “the system” is a long discussion in itself, which I won’t present here; other articles on this blog discuss that topic in depth.)
Those employing this tactic usually make the unrealistic and untrue claim that “working hard” is all that one has to do to achieve a reasonable standard of living here in the USA. They also deny that those in need of help are just as human, and therefore just as deserving of respect and care, as we are.
This particular editorial focuses on an important issue, but that issue is still merely one piece of a web of social and economic justice issues that we must address through a whole sheaf of efforts of various types, if we are serious about conquering such interdependent and multidimensional challenges at all.
As such, it is all too easy to find reasons to reject every such effort, and so rejecting helping anyone, since (1) no single program can help everyone, and (2) if you go looking for a reason to do nothing, you can always find a group of people to blame for the problem as a whole, even though such people always have little in common with the stereotype that you create of them.
And finally, from a Christian Faith perspective, we see in the Gospels that Jesus consistently and severely criticizes those who use “blame the victim” tactics as a reason to do nothing for others. Jesus never advocates “taking from the rich and giving to the poor” per se, but does not allow “the rich” to avoid their duty to minister to the needs of others; and teaches that those who fail to help those in need will be judged severely. The Second Great Commandment embodies this concept, and is foundational to our faith.
Claiming that our Christian faith is strong is a lie unless we put into action our belief that this nation must embody Christian principles in the governance of its people. Providing subsidies to help those who do not have the resources to begin building a good life for themselves on their own is a good place to start. Likewise, those who claim that this is a “Christian Nation” are deluding themselves if they allow our leaders to ignore and even demonize those in need.
Copyright (c) 2016, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)