by Sidney Bright
Brian Robertson, 5, has been faced with an international issue in today's society: poverty. His young life has been a mine field. As a boy, he barely knew his father, Cochise Smith, who was often in prison, mainly for drug abuse. Meanwhile, his mother, Carlene Smith, 42, a hotel chef with five children by five different men, struggled to make ends meet. Each week she would leave money on the kitchen table, and the children worked out a budget for the laundromat and the grocery store. "Ten dollars can buy a whole lot of noodles," Cochise says. "I learned to make a meal out of anything." In 1989, an apartment fire destroyed most of their possessions, forcing them to move in with relatives. From the little they did have, they were down to nothing but the clothes on their backs. This was a poor, black family trying to make it in the hood with just enough income to pay some of the bills and trying to live off what they could.
In the last seven years, 47.1% of all female-headed families with children under 18 were below the official poverty line, as were 19.6% of male-headed families with children and no wives present. The rates for each race was 39.6% and 16.5% for Whites; 60.5% and 31.7% for Blacks; and 60.1% and 29.4% for Latinos. In other words, single-mother families face higher rates of poverty.
It's not surprising that many single-parent households are poor because the US government neither promises affordable child care nor provides the child support common in Western Europe. France, for example, has similar or higher rates of births to unmarried women without the proportions in poverty that the US has. It shouldn't be surprising that Black and Latino single-parent families have higher rates of poverty than do white families because the earnings and job opportunities of people of color reflect continued educational and employment discrimination. The reality is that most poor Americans are white, many married couples are poor, and even if there were no nonwhite children and no single-mother families, the United States would have one of the highest child poverty rates among the Republican powers.
But that doesn't stop conservatives from blaming poverty on single mothers, especially black single mothers, and accusing them of breeding an underclass culture of poverty, drug abuse, sloth, and savagery. As films like Boys N the Hood show, you don't have to be a neoconservative (Black or White) to equate black-headed families with disorder, savagery, and death; and male-headed families with discipline, salvation, and success.
Once again, from birth children are stereotyped or called bastards because of the absence of the father from the household. That is a characteristic of poverty floating through the communities. Today, along with drugs, alcoholism, and other crimes, poverty is here to stay.
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