Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Income inequality' or poor?

Lately, I've been thinking about the term 'income inequality.' If you turn on one of the cable news channels, you can't help but hear it. I even looked it up to make sure I truly understood it. What I realized is that 'income inequality' is one of those terms that we use to replace a word or phrase that makes us uncomfortable to talk about. Sort of like using the term 'urban radio' to describe a station that Black people listen to, or using the term 'thug' as a metaphor for the 'n-word.' I believe that when we use the term 'income inequality,' it takes some of the sting out of talking about poor people who have real problems that society is not addressing. 
By talking about 'income inequality,' we're acknowledging that it's ok that rich people have money and poor people don't in a way that is not offensive. This isn't entirely a new phenomenon. In the last decade, I've noticed that rather than talk about poverty, there has been a larger and larger focus on helping the middle class and turning a blind eye to the poor.

However, failing to call a spade a spade does everyone a disservice. By failing to talk about poverty, we imply that the poor are disposable and we can throw them away. But it doesn't have to be that way.

If we talk about the struggles of poor people in this country -- no matter how uncomfortable it may be to begin that conversation -- we have to talk about issues such as disparities in incarceration rates, housing challenges, the drug culture and gaps in healthcare coverage.
It won't be so easy for us to pretend that everything is right and well with the world if we have to describe conditions that are unfair and life-threatening to an entire segment of our society. We may actually start to feel bad about where we are going as a country.

But then we may actually feel compelled to do something about it.

A. Toni Young
Community Education Group

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