Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Curious Case of Poverty

In 1492 Columbus and his crew arrived in America and began his reign of terror on friendly Native American tribes, enslaving them, forcing them to work in gold mines, and perpetrating mass genocide. Within 2 years of his arrival an estimated 125,000 Native Americans (half the population) were dead. Thus began America's legacy of mass exploitation. In the year 1500 the first Africans were kidnapped and brought to this country as slaves. They were taken from the continent of Africa against their will, transported in the hull's of ships, packed together like wretched animals, and made to wallow in their own filth during a 3 week journey over rough waters. Many didn't survive the journey. Some died from disease due to the squalid conditions, and others preferred suicide over captivity. Though no exact figures exist, it has been estimated that about 2,000,000 Africans were brought to America between 1500 and 1800. Africans were stripped of their language, culture, and identity. As captors in a foreign land they were beaten, terrorized, victimized and subjected to unspeakable atrocities both physical and psychological that would go on to haunt them for generations. All were sold as property on auction blocks like cattle without regard for their humanity, all in the name of capitalism. The slave labor of Africans was used to start the cotton industry which is the first product to be industrialized on a large scale in America. Picking cotton in the fields was not the American dream. It was, in fact an African nightmare. During this time America was colonized by English, and European settler's and in 1776 The Declaration of Independence was signed by the "founding father's" in order to guarantee all American citizen's certain inalienable rights. Namely, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of the signer's of the declaration were slave owners, who did not have Africans in mind at the time of it's signing. This is the reason for constitutional amendment's. The original document was flawed in its original form, and corrupt in its purpose. This document was not designed for slaves.
Slavery lasted for more than 300 years until President Abraham Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, but the legacy, and after effects of slavery are never ending.
In 1890 President Benjamin Harrison set up a Federal Immigration Station called Ellis Island, in New York Harbor. It was a place to accept immigrants coming by fairy from countries across the world. It was sort of like a check point where they could have their paperwork processed and to be examined themselves before they were allowed to go out into this "new world" and partake in the American dream. For many, their rich heritage, customs, and traditions were all that they had to bring with them. Everything from, language, to customary cuisine, to their names, all represented their homeland in some way. I've seen it many times, grainy footage of shivering immigrants, "tired, poor, and huddle masses, yearning to be free." It has been romanticized, and used as an example of just how far you can go in this country with hard work, drive, dedication, and most of all, opportunity. They did not face slavery, brutality, or a systematic culture of bigotry and disenfranchisement. As a result they were able to assimilate, and become the face of the United States. A nation of immigrant's.
Fast forward to the present, and the reason for my brief history lesson.
I have always been a history buff. For years I have read about certain aspects of American history, and given the facts, I have never understood why some Caucasian American's live in impoverished conditions. A recent census has revealed that out of the 49,000,000 people who live in poverty in this country, 31,000,000 are white. Of the 49,000,000 people in The U.S. without health insurance coverage, 37,000,000 are white. Contrary to popular belief the caucasian population, make up the vast majority of those who receive assistance from tax payer funded programs such as welfare at 70%.I know that there has to be many legitimate reasons that I am not aware of. But on the surface it seems puzzling, never having been subjected to slavery, Jim Crow laws and a system of discrimination that seems endless. Never having to have the constitution amended to guarantee their rights, and never having to suffer psychological, and physical torture unheard of, and on top of it all, being the beneficiaries of a system designed for their prosperity and their prosperity alone seems like the formula for unlimited success.
I am not attempting to be condescending, or arrogant when I pose this question, and maybe it is better suited to an individual as opposed to a whole group of people. But as stated previously, given the facts. I would appreciate some insight, because it is truly beyond my understanding.


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