We all make bad choices. Sometimes we get lucky and don't feel the impact of these choices. Other times we suffer the consequences.
Having resources, though, cushions the harm that results from these mistakes. Being white or wealthy helps too.
Poverty is complex, but it is not simply a result of "bad decisions made by moms and dads," as a recent BDN editorial claimed. This narrative of personal responsibility disregards the impact of social structures on the "choices" of parents, especially for poor minorities.
Although initiatives such as the SDB's early literacy program show promise, we must remember that minority children are born into a world where they are more likely to be poor, sick, and discriminated against. Unequal starting conditions are reinforced in schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, and jails.
A Stanford study showed that one in four blacks and one in five Hispanics is poor, compared to one in ten whites. "Fathers may be largely absent" because black men are incarcerated at a rate five times greater than white men, despite committing comparable rates of crime.
"Dysfunctional homes" are a result of this broken system too. It is much easier to be responsible when you have access to inherited resources to offset mistakes we all make. It is much easier to win the race when you get a head start.
Without wealth or strong support systems, one accident, hospitalization, or night of unprotected sex can cause a lifetime of struggle for families.
Self-destructive choices may compound poverty, but they're not the cause of it.
Residents in Beloit have a collective responsibility to recognize that we don't start off on equal footing, nor is poverty a result of mere individual choices.
Let's work together to create a Beloit where all residents can achieve the American dream - regardless of race or class.
BMHS Class of 2010
BMHS Class of 2008