By Tina M. Patterson
This is indeed a noble pursuit, yet one does not need to venture outside the U.S. to distribute aid to those in need. Despite all the wealth and resources of this nation, it refuses to be a benefactor in relieving its own alarming poverty crisis, thereby failing in its responsibility and protection of the nearly 40 million Americans living in poverty.
The U.S. is not alone in neglecting its domestic needs. Joan Blaney, the British author who recently joined The PuLSE Institute, explained that while Britain is the world’s sixth largest economy, there is an estimated 13.5 million people living below the poverty line who are unable to meet their basic needs, pay household bills and feed their families.
Furthermore, by global standards, in the U.S., the premier first world nation, there are more Americans who are absolutely poor than in developing nations like Sierra Leone and Nepal. And of the millions of impoverished in the U.S., no major city has larger population of people living in poverty than right here in Detroit. On a global level, this dubious distinction renders Detroit the epicenter of poverty in America.
However, before we can begin this work, one crucial element must be present for serious change to occur: genuine commitment.
In recent history, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, both of whom correctly connected the poverty entrenched in the black struggle in the U.S. to liberation movements around the globe, exemplified true leadership through their genuine dedication to fighting the injustices of poverty.
When reflecting on their legacies, the notable theologian Dr. James Cone stated best that “creative leadership involves first and foremost a sincere commitment to serve the ‘least of these.’ They are the people who serve the poor, empowering them to fight against the inhuman conditions of poverty.”
The poverty in Detroit is not a minor concern that can be resolved with an ordinance banning its practice. No amount of development deals or donations by major foundations can eliminate the destitution.
The poverty in Detroit is not just a regional issue that is an unknown phenomenon to the Upper Peninsula or an anonymous occurrence that is invisible to the people in New York, California, or London.
The poverty in Detroit is an international crisis and must be addressed with urgency, beginning with sincere appreciation for the magnitude of this issue and unwavering devotion to equality for the dispossessed.
Tina M. Patterson is the president and director of research at The PuLSE Institute, an independent non-partisan anti-poverty think tank based in Detroit.