have many challenges in North Carolina. Many and daunting. But none approaches
the tragedy that here, in the wealthiest nation on earth, the wealthiest nation
in human history, 18% of our sisters and brothers live in wrenching poverty.
Poverty amidst plenty. 25% of our innocent children.
40% of our children of color live in poverty. A simple declarative sentence
that shames us as a people. One that gives the lie – irrefutably – to both our
foundational constitutional commitments and our central tenets of religious
faith, in a single blow. To anyone paying attention, the scourge of
debilitating poverty is the largest problem faced by the people of North
Carolina – even if our political leaders ignore it, or declare, with a breathtaking
stupidity, that it doesn’t exist. Editing 1.7 million Tar Heels out of the
the untold tens of thousands of homeless citizens – often veterans, often
employed, often with children – living under our bridges, in our forests, in
our storm drains, across every corner of this asset-rich state.
the millions turning to our over-pressed food banks – even when that means,
sometimes freezing, always humiliating, overnight queues -- to secure can goods
for their children.
school kids who can’t get access to decent meals, much less quality teachers,
or safe classrooms, or the internet – but who we say enjoy a steely equality
with the well-tutored and heavily-financed children of Chapel Hill and Myers
Park. Though when we say this, we know we lie.
the vast legions of fathers and mothers who, through no fault of their own, have
been cast into a crushing unemployment that denies them the essential dignity
of supporting and sustaining their families. In what Robert Kennedy called a
violence of “inaction, indifference and decay” – causing “the slow destruction
of a child” and the ruthless “breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the
chance to stand as a father and as a man amongst other men.” And this, too,
Kennedy explained, “afflicts us all.”
we believe we are incapable of addressing these profound evils, we have lost
the ambition and the confidence that marked our forebears. If we believe we
could address them, but choose not to, our moral failing is complete.
Director, UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity