Memo to GOP: Poverty isn't Just About Race
by Clarence Page
Why does so much of our talk about race and poverty leave us Americans spinning our wheels? One big reason is etiquette. What is said often matters less than who says it.
An illustrative example of this paralyzing paradox recently was exposed, appropriately enough, by a comedian --
His guests were criticizing House Budget Chairman
I would agree with that and so, to an extent, would Maher. Yet the host interrupted his guests with another quote: "When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can't be bothered. They're sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper."
That, too, sounded like Ryan, but as Maher pointed out it actually came from first lady
"Is something less true if a white person says it?" Maher asked.
Bell responded with a familiar defense. "She was talking to black people," he said. "We talk to each other differently than we talk in front of you."
So true. A black leader preaching tough love to black folks wins praise. A white leader doing the same gets chased out of town.
It's OK to mock or to knock your own crowd, an old etiquette goes, but nobody else's.
A white conservative like Ryan has to work harder to win Obama-level trust in minority communities. His task is made all the more difficult by pressures from his party's conservative base to treat the federal government as little more than a problem, which pretty well describes Ryan's latest budget proposal.
Yet, as he told me in a telephone chat a few days before he unveiled that budget proposal, he's pushing to restore the
He's not alone. Other
That's why I offer a radical suggestion to the new idea-conservatives: Begin your anti-poverty crusade where
Go out and preach the value of hard work, good schooling and saying no to meth and addictive painkillers to poor white rural Appalachians, where LBJ announced his war on poverty.
Just as LBJ went to Appalachia, go to
Go out and preach tough love to unemployed blue-collar white males and white unmarried mothers in the devastated factory towns studied by
After all, there are numerically more poor whites in the country than poor blacks or Hispanics. But the issue became unfortunately colorized in media and public perceptions in the mid-1960s.
Today Americans of all colors are looking for answers to economic and social decline. It's time for both parties to stop treating poverty as just a racial problem. It's an American problem.