I recently stumbled across this article from the New York Times:
Shutting down education on racism at the federal level? Unbelievable. Keeping people ignorant helps no one. Not only do we need mandatory education on deep identity and racism, but we also need mandatory history of poverty United States of America.
It is ignorance that perpetuates both racism and poverty. I have trained thousands of judges, lawyers, doctors, probation officers, psychiatrists, elected officials, teachers, principals, and faith-based groups. I have yet to meet helping professionals who've had, "the history of poverty or racism in the United States of America."
We even graduate social workers without poverty 101. They are taught that the cause of poverty is addiction, alcohol, sex abuse, child abuse, and mental health. These issues affect all social classes. How many of you have heard of a wealthy drug addict, or a middle-class person who struggles with the disease of alcoholism? How many of you have heard of a well to do person committing sex offenses or child abuse? We have taken every social ill in humanity and put it on people in the crisis of poverty who have no voice. Most social work curriculum does not teach about the housing affordability crisis, the child care affordability crisis, the transportation crisis... where we don't have transportation systems to get people where they need to go when they need to be there or the hunger crisis ... where we have one in five children in this wealthy nation going hungry.
On average, I train 90,000 people a year with poverty competencies. I always ask the question, how much is your state's minimum wage? The majority cannot answer. I invited one of our senators to present at our Beegle Poverty Immersion institutes. He asked the audience made up of professionals from all sectors if they knew who their local elected officials were. No one could answer.
We are not taught about the early deaths of people in poverty because they can't access preventative care. The majority believe that people in poverty die younger because of drinking, smoking, and not taking care of themselves. The research shows that only 13% died earlier because of those reasons. 87% die early because of living in polluted neighborhoods, working in unsafe jobs, lack of access to preventative healthcare, dental care, and the stress of poverty itself which affects immunity and kills short-term memory cells. By the time most people living in the crisis of poverty get to a doctor, it's too late. My giant teddy bear brother, Melvin is one of the millions who experience that.
Taxpayers spend billions of dollars on the symptoms of not addressing the root causes of poverty. For example, in Utah, they calculated the cost of one human being on the streets. They calculated the cost of paramedics, emergency rooms, police, and other emergency services that taxpayers fund. They found it was $20,000 taxpayers were spending to keep one person on the streets. They spoke with developers and found they could house that person for $11,000. Los Angeles conducted the same study and found their cost for one person to be homeless was $36,000 per year. The cost to incarcerate one person is nearly $50,000 a year. What if we invest in our fellow human beings and ensure everyone has nutrition, excellent education, access to preventative care, access to decent housing, access to transportation, and wonderful child care? Studies show we would save billions of dollars. The impacts of both poverty and racism are expensive. We can do better but not in ignorance.
Everyday uneducated professionals impact the lives of people in poverty and people of color without a grounded understanding of how racism and the different life experiences of poverty impact our fellow human beings and what we can do about it.
This has been my work for 30 years. I can't tell you how many times professionals have said to me, " I needed your training day one."" Education on poverty has changed the way I practice medicine." "Education on poverty has changed my life and how I see and treat people on the streets."
Professionals have caused unintentional harm and that is not why they go into their work. Everyday people who vote without being educated on real poverty causes and institutional racism, cause unintentional harm. If they do get an education they are typically horrified by their actions that perpetuate racism and poverty. Without an education, they are left with stereotypes and ignorance.
My hope is that everyone who reads this will actually call your local elected officials at your county, your city, and your state. Call your federal representatives in Congress and tell them we need education on poverty and we need education on racism. Without it we continue to be the country that has more people in cages than any country in the world. It's no surprise that the majority are people of color and people in poverty.