[tabi] article by Leonard Pitts

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2010 16:22:07 -0500

I hope everyone will read the article below, and understand that all of
the points Leonard Pitts makes about "the poor" can be said of the
"blind" as well.  He's absolutely right when he speaks of our own issues
dividing us, so that we argue with one another rather than with those
who are not in our situation.
It's not only the analogy which is so pertinent here, most blind people
are also poor, and so this article speaks to them on multiple levels.  I
hope you find his writing as moving as I did.
Leonard Pitts: S. Carolina candidate breeding contempt for the poor
8:42 PM Friday, January 29, 2010

If he'd said it of Jews, he would still be apologizing.
If he'd said it of blacks, he'd be on BET, begging absolution.
If he'd said it of women, the National Organization for Women would have
his carcass
turning slowly on a spit over an open flame.
But he said it of the poor, so he got away with it.
"He" is South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, running for governor on the
GOP ticket.
Speaking of those who receive public assistance, he recently told an
audience, "My
grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small
child to
quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're
the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They
will reproduce,
especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what
you've got
to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know
any better."
You read that right. The would-be governor of one of the poorest states
there is
likens the poor to stray animals.
And though it drew some newspaper notice, a riposte from "The Daily
Show" and rebukes
from Bauer's opponents, it never quite rose to the level of national
as it would've had Bauer compared, say, women or Jews to the dogs one
feeds at one's
back door.
The relative silence stands as eloquent testimony to the powerlessness
and invisibility
of the American poor.
One is reminded how earnestly shocked news media were at the poverty
they saw five
years ago when New Orleans drowned. "Why didn't they get out?" observers
kept asking
- as if everyone has a car in the driveway and a wallet full of plastic.
The poor fare little better on television. The Evanses of "Good Times"
and the Conners
from "Roseanne" aside, television has been heavily weighted toward
middle- and upper-class families for 60 years.
Politicians? They'll elbow one another aside to pledge allegiance to the
middle class;
they are conspicuously less eager to align with those still trying to
reach that
Who, then, speaks for the poor? Who raises a voice when they are
scapegoated and
marginalized? Who cries out when they are abused by police and failed by
Who takes a stand when they are exploited by employers and turned away
by hospitals?
As near as I can tell, no one does.
Unfortunately, poor people have never learned to think of and conduct
as a voting bloc; historically, they have proved too readily divisible,
usually by
As Martin Luther King once observed: "If it may be said of the slavery
era that the
white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said
of the Reconstruction
era that the Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the "poor"
white man Jim
Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his
empty pockets
could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him
that no matter
how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black
It takes some helluva psychology to get two men stuck in the same
leaking boat to
fight one another. You'd think their priority would be to come together,
if only
long enough to bail water.
But the moneyed interests in this country have somehow been able to con
the poor
into doing just that, fighting tooth and nail when they ought to be
standing shoulder
to shoulder.
One hopes Andre Bauer's words will provide a wakeup call - in South
Carolina and
elsewhere - for people who have been down too long and fooled too often,
that it
will encourage them to organize their votes, raise their voices, push
their issues
into the public discourse.
In America, one is invisible and powerless only so long as one chooses
to be.
And the Bauers of this world need to know: sometimes stray animals bite.
Leonard Pitts Jr. writes for the Miami Herald. E-mail address:

Other related posts: