By Guest Columnist HATTIE B. DORSEY, president of HBDorsey & Associates and former president of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP).
As we watch the toppling of leaders through civil unrest and violence in the Middle East, our thoughts must turn to what is happening at home.
For the first time since the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam war demonstrations, our country is witnessing protest and rebellion by a generation who for the most part, are used to having it all. They believed that this country would never run out of financial resources, that we held the key to power and wealth, and was not subject to the harsh realities suffered by a majority of the world.
For too many it was easy to turn away from poverty, the effects of a lack of education, and the turmoil too often found in our central cities. This, of course, was the country that anyone who worked hard would be able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps and if they didn’t it was their fault.
The sad part is the many Americans never would or could lift themselves up, and the hard reality was that many could not even find missing shoe straps.
The proposed budget revisions faced by the federal, state and local governments must be made, but they cannot be made solely on the backs of the poor and powerless.
Our President has proposed cuts in the new budget, the new House majority on Capital Hill proposes elimination.
We cannot blame domestic spending for the trouble we are in and allow the newly-elected majorities to eliminate the programs that provide emergency help in the form of heating, food, housing and medical assistance.
It was not the poor who led this country to the brink of insolvency; it was those who are found occupying the offices on Wall Street, the senior managers of major banks, and the officials we elected but who respond to the overtures of lobbyists with influence. It is far easier to provide tax cuts for the top 2.5 percent, than to put in place the resources that will lift many more out of poverty.
Placing the blame on certain entitlements is always a good way to rally the crowd who want to believe everything would be all right if certain populations did not exist.
The reality is the TV cameras recording the lines of people forming in the early cold mornings seeking help in paying the escalating cost of electric and gas – not only the long-time poor, but the new poor.
Some 10,000 people in our city alone received some form of utility help in the last three months and this does not include those seeking mortgage and rental support.
My sister who leads the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority (FACAA) served this population with a small staff and has 2,500 applications in process. The cameras have captured the picture of food banks empty shelves, and the plight of many sick patients packing emergency centers for medical assistance.
And while I and others acknowledge the need to reduce spending, it must be done in a way that will not put us in the same light as what we are witnessing around the globe. We are not immune to civil unrest.
We are now held captive by a new majority who swept into office because of fear – fear that the middle class and all its privileges are being swept away, fear that allowed states and municipalities to enact new immigration laws, fear that they too will be like the ‘poor’ they have looked down on because in spite to their work ethics, they too could not find employment. This fear is now spreading and political alerts surround us.
Do I have the answer? NO. But am I willing to sit by and not ask the question, or raise the issue? NO.
I believe it is time to speak up and out, to become the advocates for equality and justice and to not sit idly by while actions are proposed that will not only be detrimental to some, but can forever take away the hopes, dreams and ambitions of many.