U.S. Poverty at Record High!

Are you suffering from malnutrition?  Are you receiving any public assistance or do not have access to emergency funds if you need them?  Do you experience debilitating depression, so much so, that it has rendered you incapable of holding down a job or looking for one? What about XBox?  Do you own one of those or have a computer to read this story on?  What about DVD’s and a DVD player, do you have those too?

I ask these, seemingly, unreasonable questions because it appears that “poverty” has taken on a new face since the 60’s and 70’s.  Back then, when someone was poor or living below the poverty line, THEY WERE REALLY FRIGGIN’ POOR!  Nowadays, if you don’t own an XBox, don’t have a car or have less than 5 DVD’s in the house it’s a real problem!  You’re poor! 

Back when there were communities (a resource that has faded and is near extinction with the selfishness exhibited on most days) and the numbers showed that people were poor, there would be big white boxes in the kitchen with blue pictures on the front showing what was inside: eggs and/or cereal or you were really posh if your cereal came in the industrial strength size clear bag with some generic name for the cereal you recognized as cheerios or cornflakes.  And there was always at least one good grilled cheese made per day off of the best damn cheese ever made: gubment cheese.

But, we’d run around outside all day until the ominous warning of “street light” fell upon us and then we’d run back to whatever our situation was and dealt with it not realizing we were poor.  We took it on the chin like soldiers as our parents went to work for pennies or collected their food stamps and we even, God forbid, GOT JOBS OURSELVES!  Teenagers had the entrepreneurial spirit of the relentless Avon ladies of old.

And let’s not forget when things wouldn’t match;  just as “Smokey” interpreted in the movie Friday.  Sometimes there would be “peanut butter no jelly, kool-aid no sugar” lights no gas, water no lights, and we knew that most of us lived in the city and the white folks lived in the promised land of the suburbs.

So now when USA Today shows that blacks are on the bottom of the totem pole economically and there are other ethnic groups considered in the numbers, I’m not alarmed.  I’m proud to know and remember from whence we came and realize that poverty has taken on a different face.  But please don’t misconstrue my words to mean that there are not some that are really suffering with real issues.

But, when I see folks walking down the street in my community toting children in designer jeans and shoes, their hair “did” at a minimum of $45 per “do,” adults and kids smoking cigarettes that are nearly $10 per pack, the weekend box office netting billions per month, and I’m stuck in gridlock on my way to the store with thousands of cars in front of me running off of nearly $4 per gallon gas, I think to myself, “What does poor really look like these days?”

If you need to see USA Today’s numbers showing that poverty has hit a record breaking 15.1 percent, check it out here.  But be careful before you lump yourself in there with those who really are “poor.”

-J.C. Brooks

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