St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country. Unfortunately, it seemed as long as murders were only being committed within certain neighborhoods, no one outside the community really cared. Once murders and shootings began occurring in the Central West End, Downtown and other areas a crisis was declared. The speed in which suspects were found when the victim was white, was amazing and reflects an urgency disparity.
Greater concern, effort, and resources are expended when the victim is white. The media uses a different vocabulary to describe white victims and seldom are drugs or illegal activity mentioned. When a black shooting victim states they don't know why they were targeted, their integrity is questioned along with the possibility of the incident being drug or gang related. White victims appear to be instantly believed, even when their stories seem bazaar.
I am fifty years old, and during my lifetime, there have been 9,415 murders in St. Louis; an average of 188 per year. Among those victims were my brother-in-law and nephew. I don't know any black family that hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by murder. There was no crisis declared, no end violence initiatives by news channels until multiple white people became victims.
Ironically, some people seem to think that before channel 4's #EndViolenceSTL, that no one was concerned or addressing violence in our community. There have been multiple attempts to raise awareness and end violence, the most notable recent attempt was a Call to Oneness.
Unfortunately, a 16-year-old was killed just hours after the Call to Oneness event. There was a "Clergy call for citywide prayer to end violence in St. Louis", months before Michael Brown. Until the root causes of crime are addressed, various forms of oppression, it will continue and we are all at risk to falling victim to it.
War on drugs
The war on drugs was waged almost exclusively against black and brown people. After a new drug crisis was declared when methamphetamine and heroin began affecting white communities, no new drug war was declared. In fact, once large numbers of white kids became addicted to drugs, the country suddenly started to realize that the war on drugs was too harsh and unfair. Instead of calling for incarceration of these new white addicts, medical treatment was prescribed for their "illness".
Visit Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other major city in the United States and you'll discover a statistical anomaly; each of these cities contains impoverished areas that are overwhelmingly black or brown. Unless you're prepared to say that black and brown people are less ambitious, less intelligent or inferior; you must come to the realization that those groups are artificially held back by institutionalized oppression and discrimination.
The sad reality is that many people have been conditioned to believe that something is wrong with black and brown people. Unfortunately, some black people even believe this myth. Some have even convinced themselves that because they achieved some measure of success, they are somehow the exception to the rule. They don't seem to understand that when they move into an all-white community or attend white schools, that standard is applied to them and they are considered by those around them as less than. If you indict a group of people and you are a member of that group, you cannot escape the indictment.
Until systemic oppression and inequality ends, including; abusive policing, government policy, inferior education, business practices, media bias, resource distribution, unfair court practices, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination, crime will continue to rise and will spill over into communities that had previously been considered immune or safe. Increasingly, criminals are beginning to realize it is more profitable to target people with more resources.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” – Frederick Douglass
Crime and Poverty
Both the United Nations and the World Bank indicate poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States, there were 46.7 million people in poverty in 2014. The official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. Contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, which included 25,659,922 Whites, 11,197,648 Hispanics, 9,472,583 Blacks, and 1,899,448 Asians; poverty affects all groups.
At least 4.2 million, one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white, 27% of Latino children (4 million), 33% of black children (3.6 million), 12% of Asian children (400,000) and 40% of American Indian (200,000). Source National Center for Children in Poverty.
Even Elvis' recognized this when he recorded, "The Ghetto" in 1969. This song is about poverty, describing a child who can't overcome his surroundings and turns to crime, which leads to his death. It was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially-conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason.
Just about every college student will learn about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.
Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.
Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs.
Safety needs include those needs that provide a person with a sense of security and well-being. Personal security, financial security, good health and protection from accidents, harm, and their adverse effects are all included in safety needs.
Social needs also called love and belonging, refer to the need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social needs are important to humans so that they do not feel alone, isolated and depressed. Friendships, family, and intimacy all work to fulfill social needs.
Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem and respect, with self-respect being slightly more important than gaining respect and admiration from others.
Self-actualization needs describe a person's need to reach his or her full potential. The need to become what one is capable of is something that is highly personal. While I might have the need to be a good parent, you might have the need to hold an executive-level position within your organization.
I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina news coverage and wondering if the government was purposefully trying to create a Maslow situation to cause people to act on their survival instincts to show images of blacks behaving like animals. How else could the government's lack of aid to such an enormous disaster be described?
The opposite occurred and the people of New Orleans displayed exceptional amounts of humanity towards one another.
In many countries that do not provide an adequate safety net, kidnapping and other crimes that target well-off citizens are common. What many people do not seem to understand is that social programs such as food stamps, section 8 and others that help people meet basic needs, prevents people from being forced to turn to crime to meet those needs.
Use a simple common sense approach. What would you do if after following all the rules, you could not afford to provide for the basic needs of your family and your children are hungry? If you do not have family or friends who can help; and if there is no outside assistance available, many people would do things they would not have considered doing previously.
The media has demonized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as "food stamps" over the years, often portraying the recipients as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work.
Most SNAP recipients don’t rely exclusively on the benefits for food – only 22 percent of the program’s 47 million beneficiaries in 2013 had zero gross income. Many recipients have recently lost their jobs, are low wage earners or employed part time. Among those 22 percent with zero gross income are children, elderly, people affected by disasters, injured or too ill to work.
As pointed out in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when a person can't feed themselves or their family, they will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that need. Oxford University and the Pew Research Center have estimated that half of all job that exists today will be gone within ten years. The irony is that as computerization and robotics displace large numbers of workers; the very people complaining about these benefits today, will be the same ones that the benefits will not available for tomorrow.
Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how SNAP helps disadvantaged people achieve success.
Famous People who were on Food Stamps
When Jan Koum sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion on February 19, 2014, he signed the paperwork against the front door of the welfare office where his family used to collect food stamps. After the sale of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, including:
President Barack Obama and his mother Ann Dunham received food stamps when the future president was a baby.
Musician Bruce Springsteen received food stamps during the earlier parts of his career. I have always respected the fact that Springsteen recorded "American Skin (41 Shots)" is a song inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo.
For those not familiar with Amadou Diallo
Dr. Ben Carson, in his book "Gifted Hands", wrote, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps," …"She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”
Craig T. Nelson who was once helped with food stamps seemed to be making an argument against government assistance for others.
Other notable food stamp recipients
Olympic speed skater Emily Scott was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600.
Viola Davis, Actress – grew up in extreme poverty and stated, "I Have Stolen, Jumped in Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food"
Scarlett Johansson – She stated, “My family grew up relying on public assistance to help provide meals for our family”.
Taraji P. Henson, – Was on welfare after the tragic death of her husband
Kelly Clarkson – grew up poor living on food stamps.
Oprah Winfrey, – her mother had to rely on welfare to feed her family.
J.K Rowland – “Harry Potter” author argues government assistance helped her survive in her early years.
Whoopi Goldberg – became a mother at 17 and relied on welfare until she was able to do better.
Iyanla Vanzant – raised in a family that relied on welfare to get by.
Tobey Maguire – "As a kid, I was very poor. I mean, it's all relative, but we would get groceries from neighbors. I always had a roof over my head, but I slept on couches of relatives, and some night we wandered into a shelter. My family had food stamps and government medical insurance.
I've often wondered if we as a society have failed to properly educate and support a child who would have cured cancer.
Five Hour Energy Billionaire Trying to Make a Difference in the lives of the poor