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A Letter From a South Side Apartment

A couple of years ago, I read Dr. Martin Luther King’s A Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was mesmerized by the passion and anger in his words and although we are in the second decade of the 21st century, his words still resonate. This letter I am writing is my tribute to him for giving his life for me and other disadvantaged and disrespected groups in America. It would sadden him to no end that nothing has really changed in American society in regards to race and economics. Perhaps one day, we will be truly free from the chains of racism and economic selfishness that enveloped America since its inception.

18  March 2012

My Dear Mr. Gingrich & Other Republican Presidential Candidates who believe that the Poor Blacks are the Scum of the Universe:

While confined in my lower class existence, I cannot help but think about the words you put into the universe about Black people who receive unemployment compensation, food stamps and other government benefits, people whose lives have been touched by the mean specter of poverty. Until recently, I was stressed out about receiving $318 per month in public assistance, so I normally would not have time to ponder on your condescending self-serving words since I was too busy trying to find a job in a dying economy but your words offended me so greatly I had to speak to you about this. Although I am now employed with a job title that is much fancier than it pays, I still cannot afford to move to a decent area because rent prices in Chicago for a three bedroom apartment would take most of my monthly salary, but a man as wealthy as yourself would not understand my dilemma. The current public discourse on the lives of poor Blacks in this country has been taken over by White, well-dressed, well-fed career politicians like yourself and I thought you needed some enlightenment.

First of all, no one wants to be poor. I know that you believe that little Black children spend their time discussing ways to be indigent and homeless by the time they are eighteen but the children I know have big plans for their future. My ten-year-old daughter’s plans for the future change daily: One day she wants to be a fashion designer, the next a mad scientist who is going to take over the world. The one thing she has made clear is that she does not see motherhood in her future because in her words, “Being a mother takes too much work.”

I know that you like to believe that the children of poor Blacks are a drain on society but you are so wrong. I was a teenage mother at the age of sixteen and had two children by the age of twenty-one.  If one was to believe statistics on single mothers, I should have been a grandmother at thirty-two and putting money on my son’s prison commissary.  Not!  My daughter graduated from college last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and will be going back to school in April to purse a MBA and my son is college studying History. My children watched me work for various corporations who paid me very little money and proudly watched when I walked across the stage at the age of thirty-five to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with honors.

But I realize that you probably do not know too many Black people personally so when you chose to discuss them among your constituents, you like to use tired, worn-out stereotypes about them. According to you, Blacks have no work ethic and like taking baths in the piles of food stamps they receive. Blacks have been in this country since 1619 and still have not made any progress although White people have given them everything! What is wrong with these trifling Black people?

It is very easy for you and your kind to sprout these words, snugly enveloped in your cloak of White male privilege but what you do not realize is that although Blacks are no longer slaves, they were never made equal, financially or mentally.  Throughout the years, American society had every opportunity to make amends to African-Americans by giving them same economic advantages as Whites, but it never happened because that would mean Blacks would be on the same economic playing field as Whites and that is a no-no.

It is funny how you like to blame the media for everything wrong in your world but the media in all actuality is your best friend.  The media, owned by the ruling class, has played a major role in distorting views about social economics by pretending the ruling class does not exist and poor Blacks are the dregs of society. The media with its ‘magic’ can make the historical legacy of slavery and later Jim Crow laws vanish by pretending it is their fault that they are poor. By doing this, upper and middle-classed Americans learn to fear and loathe poor Blacks and refuse to understand the connection between systematic racism and high poverty levels among African-Americans.

The dominant culture has succeeded in making African-Americans subhuman to other groups, who passively accept these bigoted views. In your speeches and in the Republican debates, the message that you and others have given is to degenerate Black people at all costs and to keep poor working-class Whites in a constant tizzy about the so-called advantages given to them.

Mr. Gingrich, I feel sorry for you and wonder what you would do if Blacks did not exist in this country. Race and class was socially constructed for the advancement of Whites and the making up of a social class of poverty-stricken African-Americans who could be blamed for everything wrong in society. Take away the pretensions, the feelings of superiority that comes with having the “right” skin color and people like you in this society would be loss. No more scapegoats to blame and you would have to face up to the fact that you have no plans for making the economic system in America more equal. But it is easier to blame Blacks, who unlike your ancestors had no choice when they were brought to this country as chattel and broodmares to make the lives of the White ruling class easier.

 

Sincerely,

Kathy M. Henry

 

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About Kathy Henry

I am a woman. I am an African-American. Belonging to two minorities has shaped my viewpoint on life in more ways than I can count. It is not easy being a woman in a inherently sexist society. Add skin color to the equation and you have me. This is my world and my viewpoint. You do not have to agree with my thoughts but in the end, you will respect me.

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