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Mary Walker: Empower victims of systemic poverty

Principle No. 3: We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “war economy” into a “peace economy.”

By Mary Walker

One of the phrases used in connection with the Poor People’s Campaign is “fight poverty, not the poor.”

It’s not immoral to be poor. It’s immoral to make people poor and keep them poor through the actions of government. The Poor People’s Campaign is a movement to empower the people who are victims of deeply ingrained systemic poverty, systemic racism and the country’s perpetual wars.

Did you know the U.S. imprisons and detains more people, especially poor people of color, than any other country in the world? Did you know that currently 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending and only 15 cents of every dollar is spent on anti-poverty programs? Young people raised in poverty are targeted by military recruiters, knowing they have no other opportunities to better themselves.

The Rev. William Barber, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, calls it “the poverty draft.” The purpose of the campaign is to push the elimination of poverty to the top of the U.S. agenda. To achieve this, the U.S. must reorient its priorities away from the criminalization of the poor and militarism and toward domestic spending on programs that will include the elimination of poverty and thus invest in a just and peaceful future.  

Taking a stand against injustice makes people uncomfortable, but should we choose comfort over justice? When we see injustice, it’s because good people were afraid to speak against it. If more of us start speaking out, then it stops being extraordinary. It becomes an expectation.

Join the public conversation with the poor and learn about the fight against poverty.

Mary W. Walker is a member of the Poor People’s Campaign Salisbury Circle.



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