Poverty's face

January 5, 2012 

What does poverty look like in North Carolina? Four out of every 10 minority children in the state are "in poverty." That means they're in households with a family income of $22,000 or lower, assuming a family of four.

And it's more crowded in front of that mirror that reflects on those in poverty: Poverty grew 22 percent between December of 2007 and June of 2009. The faces in that mirror are young and old and middle-aged.

Those activists from the state NAACP and the UNC Center on Poverty, World and Opportunity run by Gene Nichol, a law professor, know the statistics. They know as well that the extent of poverty in North Carolina, pegged at 1.6 million people last year, is probably worse than that. The $22,000 income figure is a federal standard, and most in this state who study such things believe the bar is too low.

So Nichol and the NAACP chapter headed by the Rev. William Barber are leading a tour of North Carolina that won't exactly boast about the wonders of "Variety Vacationland."

Rather, the activists will show and learn up close from those who actually are in poverty. They'll hear about the hardships these people face, how they live

Those who are middle-class or wealthy need to understand what real poverty is, so that when politicians in the legislature are debating the issues, poverty's human consequences can be understood. It isn't so easy to dismiss a problem if one recalls the face of a child in hunger.

There is no question that the Great Recession has taken a large toll on the middle class, which is getting more attention than it once did. That is deserved. But the desperately poor, so often forgotten, must not slip from memory, concern or action, either. Anything that raises awareness of their plight is of value.

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