An American kind of Hell is quickly descending on the poorest Black children, nearly one million of whom now live in "extreme poverty," according to a study by the Children's Defense Fund. Most disturbingly, desperate poverty among African Americans under 18 years of age has increased 50 percent since 1999. Newly reviewed census data show 932,000 Black kids live in households with after-tax earnings less than half the official poverty level - $7,064 a year for a family of three.

The figures are the highest since the government began compiling such data in 1979. The extreme poverty rate for Black kids is 8 percent, double the average for the general population. All told, 3.4 million Black children live in poverty, a proportion that had been shrinking until the beginning of the current recession, in 2000

When the Nineties bubble burst, the children tumbled, this time without a net.


"In the first year of the economic downturn, much progress made by families was wiped out," said Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman. "We need welfare policies that work in tough times as well as good times.

"It is shameful that one million Black children are left behind in extreme poverty. It is hard to be poor. It is harder to be an extremely poor Black child in America when our president who says we should Leave No Child Behind is proposing massive new tax breaks for the richest Americans."

Edelman and traditional liberals rightly invoke morality and fairness in denouncing the Bush men, who answer with contempt for the "bleeding hearts." The class that seized power in the United States in 2000 does not share the values of what normal human beings consider "civilization." Human progress, as they define it, is not measured in the general good, but in the "freedom" to accumulate wealth unfettered by the needs and claims of other human beings. One million desperately poor Black children represent, to them, two million grasping hands to be employed at terms dictated by "the market" (themselves) or manacled so as not to threaten the rich man's "freedoms."

In the Bush men's world, populated mainly by persons who create nothing of value to society, the safety net is a profound evil, against which they wage war. They tear down social support structures in order to create insecurity among the people, a state of affairs they believe is conducive to "virtue" in that it enforces the rules of the "marketplace" in which their acquisitive values rule. The Bush men believe absolutely that reformers such as Edelman threaten the destiny of mankind - a sacred reserve of the rich. If they actually feared Edelman, they would kill her, and feel themselves righteous.

They are killing these one million Black children, as surely as if they shot them at birth. Many of the kids' brothers and sisters never made it into the statistical tables - African American women have by far the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world: 13.6 deaths per 1,000 births, just ahead of impoverished French Guiana, in South America. (See , "Persistent Peril," March 6.)

It is already inevitable that a majority of the boys in the extreme poverty cohort and a very substantial portion of the girls will go to prison. Twenty-eight percent of adult Black males of all incomes have spent some time in jail - these children of extreme poverty will easily double or triple that proportion when they reach the age of incarceration. Indeed, with 3.4 million African American kids living at or below $14,000 a year, and one million subsisting on half that much money, there can be little doubt that the current Black prison population of one million will at least double in the next 13 years or so, just as it did during the past 13 years.

The Bush men accept the inevitability of such consequences - or may even revel in the thought. Who knows? These are people that operate in a different moral framework than the rest of us.

What we can easily observe, once we cease listening for signs of a compassion that does not exist, is that the Bush men celebrate every step that is taken in the forced march to a society of vast inequalities, spreading squalor, and premature death. What decent people recoil from, they embrace. In place of general prosperity, they seek to impose general insecurity. Their vision of Heaven is our Hell.

When the Bush men promise to leave no child behind, they mean that no child will be spared the full rigors of the marketplace, to sink or swim unaided, so that the freedoms of the rich are unimpeded.

The Bush regime is less than two and one-half years old, and already they have condemned hundreds of thousands of additional Black children to incarceration, moral degradation, and early death. Yet they stomp across the social landscape as if killing roaches, determined to purify the nation (and world) of all material and ideological traces of egalitarianism.

There can be no common, human dialogue with a class that is, essentially, misanthropic. One million Black children are on a conveyer belt to death, George Bush's Harvest of Shame. Yet Bush is not ashamed, but proud of the fruits of his exertions, and believes that his God approves of his work.

This is an enemy who plays for keeps - a happy, smirking child killer.

Your comments are welcome. Visit the Contact Us page for E-mail or Feedback.

Click here to return to the home page








Issue Number 41
May 8, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Welfare Safety Net

Black Spinelessness in High Places: DC Mayor sells out on vouchers - for nothing!

The Issues
Lieberman seeks crossover GOP in SC... Ashcroft targets Haitians as threat... The quickest route to death row

The forbidden word, revealed... Enduring effects of "deep racism"... Can love bloom in the White House?

Bookmark and Share


Commentaries in Issue 40 May 1, 2003:

Cover Story
"How You Gonna Export Something You Ain’t Even Got At Home?" - By Paul Street

Shock and Awe USA

Treat Corporate Media Like the Enemy - and no free pass for Black radio

The Issues
Sharpton: Going the distance with low finance... JC Watts, in it for the money... Section 8 housing threatened... The doomed occupation

Run Black, or don’t run at all... Condoleezza cartoon insults women... Conspiracies of the many against the few... Peace of the Shaman

Guest Commentary
The Lena Baker Story: Execution in a small town - By Lela Bond Phillips

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.