My neighborhood in Shreveport, Louisiana, is a perfect example of the income inequality, poverty and legacy of racism that fuel so much political discussion today.
Historically, Allendale was known as the “Bottoms,” the black side of town in the Jim Crow South, crowded with shotgun shacks and separate and unequal schools. Fannin Street, once a commercial strip with bars and brothels, was the name of a pounding Leadbelly song; it’s just a few blocks from where my husband and I live today, where we mentor neighborhood kids.
Allendale was poor and black a century ago, and remains so. Census numbers tell the story: 31 percent of our nearly 3,000 residents live below the poverty line; unemployment stands at 57 percent; 43 percent of households receive food stamps; 49 percent are on Medicaid.
So when candidates for office promise more government help — from free health care to free college to a guaranteed annual income — they have in mind people like my neighbors in Allendale. Some of what’s being proposed might, in fact, make some difference. But I know from hard experience that a government program alone is not enough to ensure that people will avoid living another generation in poverty. In fact, in many cases, these programs may inflict more harm than good.
Sharpel Welch is a 2019 Civil Society Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. An Army veteran and educator, Welch is a youth community coordinator at Community Renewal International, a faith-based nonprofit that brings together caring partners to restore the foundation of safe and caring communities. This piece was adapted from City Journal.
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