Rich and Buzz Palmer’s Letter to Editor of New York Times Book Review

by Rich Rubenstein on September 10, 2012 · 0 comments

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After Paul Tough wrote an interesting cover article for the New York Times Book Review on Poverty in America, Edward L. “Buzz” Palmer and I wrote a letter to the magazine’s editor.  Since it was not published there, we are publishing it here:

To the Editor

New York Times Book Review

August 21, 2012

Paul Tough’s article about Obama and Poverty throws a long-overdue spotlight on a deep-rooted problem that no politician wants to discuss.  The article highlights an area in Chicago that was once comfortably working and middle class but is now poverty-ridden. We need to understand that poverty is not an issue only for the poor, and that its remediation will require structural change – not just increased federal aid to youths in neighborhoods like Roseland, as welcome as that aid might be.

In an area not too far from Roseland, well-to-do Black people live in comfort in an upscale neighborhood.  But they, too, have seen an increase in home invasions and violent robberies. They live on an island of affluence surrounded by a sea of poverty.  The violence generated by unalleviated poverty cannot be quarantined.  It eventually affects the larger community.

Chicago is experiencing such violence across the city, not just in poor, predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods.   Roving bands of youth attack tourists in affluent areas, and murder is skyrocketing.  Furthermore, persistent poverty can lead to significant social unrest if not addressed meaningfully.  It is as if war had been declared on the poor – and people who feel themselves under attack will sooner or later fight back.

Those who think they are removed from the possible consequences of unalleviated poverty should re-read Edgar Allan Poe’s maserpiece, The Masque of the Red Death.  The revelers realized too late that the plague was within their midst.

Edward L. Palmer, Community Leader, South Chicago

Richard E. Rubenstein, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

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