Philadelphia’s Poverty Problem

This is the problem we never talk about

It’s not hard to find a different opinion among black activists.

“When you look at poverty in America, the solution is very simple,” Philly lawyer Michael Coard argues. “I say to America, stop being so fucking selfish! We’ve gotta stop saying, I did for myself, and you do for yourself. America is wealthy! We need education for those in need. Job training. We need a modern WPA!”

Coard, the most genial outraged activist imaginable, points out that our selfishness isn’t even in our best interest. “We spend more money jailing poor people  —  I call it a modern debtors’ prison  —  than we would helping them.”

Yet Coard, too, is frustrated that black leaders don’t speak out more: Bill Cosby was right to demand an up-by-the-bootstraps mentality within the black community, yet so were Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in denouncing him, he says. Because blacks have to keep self-criticism on the QT, to avoid giving Limbaugh and Beck and other conservative loudmouths ammunition.

So goes the debate, all over the map. Who’s talking about the children?