Listen now (23 mins) | An interview with Matthew Desmond, author of “Why Poverty Persists in America”
One point: it wasn’t about many Americans coming together in small ways that brought about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By early spring of 1963, the movement was faltering; people could no longer afford to take off work for peaceful protest, and a couple of nights in jail--even when no charges were filed--often meant losing employment altogether. So MLK and his organization recruited children as protesters. It was on my 13th birthday, May 2, 1963, that the Children’s Crusade held its first protest--a thousand kids ages 7 to 17 took to the streets. The very next day, Birmingham’s sheriff, Bull Connor, did what he had only threatened, before--turning high pressure fire hoses and attack dogs against protesters, this time just children. The whole world was shocked to see such brutality aimed at children, their little arms and legs bloodied, their bodies blown against buildings like so much street detritus. It made JFK a supporter of the Act for the first time, and his assassination in November cemented it as a forgone conclusion.
The world is now turning against democracy, towards fascism. France has just recently smacked down protests, against raising the retirement age there, with violence. The EU has, since 2014, made Libyan militias wealthy, who imprison and traffic refugees--to prevent people fleeing extremist regimes from reaching any European shore. No one bats an eyelash that Putin may have executed Yevgeny Prighozhin with a bomb in his private jet; instead, they wonder why it took him so long. Here, some GOP states are making legal to hit peaceful protesters with cars. Tx is willing to let migrants die by refusing them water in triple-digit heat, or hang themselves up on water booms encased in razor wire.
We don’t even seem to care that our own children are being killed with AR-15s by the thousands, even in their schools.
I agree that each of us must vitally contribute to make this nation more equitable and inclusive. But the problem is worse now than before, when the USA still had some sense of collective conscience.
My local bookstore was featuring a few picks from Obama's must read books with "Poverty, by America" being on the list. I just listened to your interview with Matthew Desmond (great job! very insightful) and had to pick up a copy. I'm really looking forward to digging in further.
Wow, Mark, thanks for sharing! And thanks to co-host Melinda! My book club read Evicted a few years ago, and I was excited to learn about this great continuation of Matthew Desmond's work.
Looking forward to discussing this topic next week. Maybe we can find a collective upgrade for what the author calls our "informed, sophisticated passivity" 👍
"I don't find despair useful."
It's not, and that is a generally true/applicable statement.