In every phase and facet of national life, there’s a war being waged on America’s poor. In social policy, poor mothers are targeted for criminal sanctions for acts, if committed by mothers of higher economic class, would merit treatment at the Betty Ford Center. In youth policy, governments hasten to close schools, while building boot camps and prisons as their “graduate schools.” Xenophobic politicians hoist campaigns to the Dark Star of imprisonment for street beggars, further fattening the fortress economy. The only apparent solution to the scourge of homelessness is to build more and more prisons. In America’s 90s, to be poor is not so much socioeconomic status, as it is a serious character flaw; a defect of the spirit.
Federal statistics tell a tale of loss and want so dreadful that Dickens—of A Tale of Two Cities fame—would cringe. Consider: 7 million people homeless, with less than $200 in monthly income. 37 million people—14.5% of the nation’s population—living below poverty levels. Of that number, 29% are African Americans, meaning over 10.6 million Blacks living in poverty. Both wings of the ruling Republocrat party try to outdo themselves in announcing new, ever more draconian measures to restrict, redress, restrain, and to eliminate the poor. One is reminded of the wry observation of fringe writer, Anatole France: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
Already, US manufacturers have fled to NAFTA-friendly Mexico, and only the Zapatista insurgency in Chiapas has slowed an emerging flood of Western capital. Outgunned in the industrial wars by Japan and Germany, the US has embarked on a low-technology, low-skilled, high-employment scheme that exploits the poor, the stupid, and the slow via a boom in prison construction, America’s sole growth industry. Increasingly, more and more Americans are guarding more and more American prisoners for more and more years, and this amidst the lowest crime rate in decades. No major political party has an answer to this “social dilemma,” short of cages and graves for the poor.
The time is ripe for a new, brighter, life-affirming vision that liberates, not represses, the poor, who, after all, are the vast majority of this earth’s people. Neither serpentine politics nor a sterile economic theory, which treats them–people–as mere economic units, offer much hope, for the very politicians they vote for spit into their faces, while economists write them off as non-persons. It must come from the poor, a rebellion of the spirit that reaffirms their intrinsic human worth based upon who they are, rather than what they possess.
From death row, this is Mumia Abu Jamal. For more information about my case, racism, and the death penalty, and what you can do contact Equal Justice USA at 301-699-0042.