03 June 2011

Coretta Scott King on Poverty

PBS was showing Simon and Garfunkel's Songs of America, a 1969 documentary about the duo that was as much political as it was musical. As I was half paying attention, the voice of a women comes into the background as the pickings of Paul Simon are heard and images of America with great farm expanses and urban poverty stand stark. The women, Coretta Scott King it turns out, says:
Poverty can produce a most deadly kind of violence. In this society violence against poor people and minority groups is routine. I remind you that starving a child is violence; suppressing a culture is violence; neglecting schoolchildren is violence; discrimination against a working man is violence; ghetto house is violence; ignoring medical needs is violence; contempt for equality is violence; even a lack of will power to help humanity is a sick and sinister form of violence.
Hearing this made me literally stop my work and take in the verbal and visual imagery presented by Mrs. King as I imagined that the sentiments are just as relevant over 30 years later in and out of the United States.

There are many reasons one will work towards the end of poverty, whether it may be the excitement of travel or the rush of joy felt when helping a person accomplish a goal, but the moral indignation when considering the violence of poverty burns within every person who enters this endeavor. Though a sense of caution persists as I consider the 'violence' perpetrated by those who solely ride the wave of good will and implement programs that do more harm than good to be masked behind good intentions. Recognizing the violence that is poverty is as important as recognizing what is being done and has not worked.

The opening of Songs of America: