Last week featured grown folk behaving badly and adults gone wild. From Serena Williams’ temper tantrum and tirade at the U.S. Open tournament to Kanye West’s disgusting and ill-timed protest of an MTV VMA award winner and from Republican U.S. Representative Joe Wilson's disrespectful outburst during President Barack Obama’s speech at a joint congressional session to the hissyfit thrown by conservative pundits, politicians and parents who jumped up and down to prevent the President’s speech to school children from being shown in class and labeling it as a “scheme to indoctrinate our youth into the president's socialist cult,” the cuttin' up rolled on seemingly out of control.
However, while grown people acting childish - impetulant, irrational, impatient and self-preoccupied – is ugly and sad, the growing presence of children who, because of the current economic crisis are forced to prematurely bear the weight of grown-up pressures is even more shameful, disgusting and disgraceful. It is also a subject that goes almost unnoticed.
Only 20 percent of teens are able to get jobs leaving over 1.5 million unemployed and 12 million young people without food. There are 14.1 million children or one in five, who are poor and living in poverty in the richest nation on earth according to The Economic Policy Institute. In 2009 a quarter of all children in this country will be living in poverty and by 2010 the child poverty rate will be 26.6%. This would represent an increase of 10.4 percentage points from 2000 to 2010. The EPI terms it – truly a lost decade.
Nearly 800,000 homeless youth are in schools attempting the nearly impossible feat of learning while simultaneously sharing in their parents' physical and mental anguish concerning how they will eat, handle illness, buy daily necessities, and pay for utilities, rent or mortgages.
I used to fret over what was termed "the first generation of African American children who grew up outside of the black church." But to also have to grow up in the hopelessness and despair of the 21st century's economic crisis and never experiencing access to the jobs and material resources of previous generations is exponentially worse. It means that the normal stage of innocence and children's future have been stolen by having to shoulder poverty, unemployment, crime, drugs, violence, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and other effects of inequality and economic disaster.
Growing up too late is a pity, but growing up too soon is a tragedy.
Contemporary portraits of poverty are usually painted with wide brushstrokes of individual responsibility, educational failure, moral deficiencies and even race or cultural factors. Always in the shadows but seldom mentioned in poverty discussions is the role or impact of corporate policy and the business decisions which often exacerbate the plight of the poor and vulnerable.
The Kroger Co., with annual revenues of $76 billion and a history of closing grocery stores in low income or “less desirable” neighborhoods that don’t fit its high-end image, has announced that it will conclude the lease on its Toledo, Ohio store at 559 E. Manhattan on October 10, 2009. Yet new stores are planned or under construction for two suburban stores including an 80,000 sf. store in Waterville scheduled to open in 2010.
Terry Glazer, Chief Executive Officer of United North Development Corporation, who has been actively involved with the issue feels that the needs of the community and the effects on the neighborhood Kroger leaves behind are not something that has been sufficiently considered. “They are grossing two hundred thousand dollars a week and a million per month, making a profit and the building owners have given them favorable lease rates and offered to help with expansion. Kroger is abandoning the older neighborhoods and leaving behind a loyal customer base, many of whom don’t have transportation to get to other supermarkets.”
Male, Afra-feminist, Liberationist, Doctor of Ministry (DMin), Pastor/Social Activist of an urban, inner-city church offering a theological perspective on the day to day issues faced by a marginalized people.