Henry Gargan: No poor choice

December 4, 2013 

In the Nov. 29 letter “Blame culture,” the writer seems to insinuate that the poor suffer because they have chosen to be poor. I would like to call attention to the vast array of factors that conspire to keep the poor impoverished independently of their choices.

Mental illness, institutional racism and class-ism, underfunded schools and even simple bad luck are all examples of barriers that whittle away the margin of error wealthier folks enjoy when it comes to making the most of their life prospects. The “choices” to drop out of high school or to sell drugs rarely present themselves as choices at all: The poor must often choose between starving or feeding themselves with the few tools they have been afforded by those who characterize their condition as a fair result of meritocracy.

The writer said his father grew up in rural Mississippi and grew up to be a rocket scientist “without any government funding,” and that is an amazing story. But why should we expect the poor among us be superheroes to escape poverty and that members of the upper class only fulfill the status quo to maintain their wealth?

Henry Gargan, Chapel Hill

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