Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Response to Kozol

Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol

Very eye-opening article! Its definitely easy to forget that so many people not far away from you are living in complete poverty and in conditions so terrible that you'd think the article is describing a third world country!
Here are some quotes that I thought were particularly important:

  • "There are children in the poorest, most abandoned places who, despite the miseries and poisons that the wurld has pumped into their jives, seem, when you first meet them, to be cheeerful anyway." ~ Kozol
Its hopeful to think that children's spirits can be so resilient to the evil that is going on around them. It makes you realize that there is a lot of potential in those children, and if they were given the opportunity they could become just as successful as anybody else. Its so sad that with time those spirits can be dampened and put out completely as these children turn into teenagers and enter the world of drug use and prostitution. It makes you want to rescue them while they are still cheerful, hopeful, and full of life and potential.

  • -"three slices, one for my mom, one for my dad,
    and one for me"-he says he saw a homeless man who told
    him he was hungry. "But he was too cold to move his
    mouth! He couldn't talk!"
    "How did you know that he was hungry if he couldn't
    "He pointed to my pizza."
    "What did you do?"
    "I gave him some!"
    "Were your parents mad at you?"
    He looks surprised by this. "Why would they be mad?"
    he asks. "God told us, 'Share!'"
Its amazing that people living in the poorest of conditions can have so much compassion for others when they themselves are suffering. Its amazing that he would give his pizza away with so much willingness, and makes me wonder whether I would even do the same.

  • "I have yet to figure out what she has done that was irrational".
Kozol definitely does not believe that poverty stems from laziness and bad decisions, and in fact the options these people are faced with certainly shows how difficult it is from them to escape that kind of lifestyle. Even a kind hard working woman like Alice Washington couldn't "beat the system".

Go hear for one man's theory for how to beat the system:

This article was very intense and certainly appealing to people's emotions. I felt very sorry for the people who have to live in these conditions and can only wonder how bad it must be.
I would love to see more blacks rise out of the rubble, beat the system, and become successful despite the odds.

The only question I have is WHY so few of the people who live in Harlem work. The article did mention that many are too sick to work, but I cannot imagine that such a majority would be so disabled rendering it impossible to work on at least some kind of job. Are jobs simply not available? Are there other factors that might be withholding people from job posts?


  1. Yana it is outstanding that people in America live in conditions of a third world country! I completely agree with and also doubt that I could be as nice as some poorer people!

  2. Hi Yana,

    I just watched that video you posted about Geoffrey Canada and his programs for Harlem. I thought that it really worked with this article because Kozol is gives us stories about children who live in this poverty filled neighborhood who see violence every day and Canada's programs try to work with these same children to give them a better life. His idea of baby college for parents is kind of amazing, especially for parents who themselves grew up in these neighborhoods - he's getting them the help they need for their children to have better lives.

    I agree with you, I would also love to see more black rise out of the rubble and have a better life than their parents. I also wonder why so many people are out of work, and I wonder if it gives the children of this area the ideas that they themselves do not need to work when they get older. Maybe if there was a way that they could get better role models then it would be a lot easier for these children to ultimately beat the odds.

  3. Hi Yana,
    I have so many mixed feelings about that last quote you used. One the one hand, it's so easy to say "you chose this life. you chose to do drugs, or be a prostitute", but on the other hand I think most of us don't know what it's like to live in their neighborhood, to be the poorest of the poor, to live in despair, and to have no other options.
    I think it's so hard to pinpoint who's at fault, why things are the way they are. Obviously the city is to blame for much of it, but are some people to blame as well? The drug dealers, the thieves and rapists? The people who don't 'beat the system' but rather fool it, making the process harder for people like Alice, who really need the help? There's so many factors..I think that's why it's so hard to fix such a mess...

  4. I had the same question as you did Yana. It would make sense for these people living in these conditions to just get a job and make money to get themselves out of these situations. I think there are many reasons why they dont just simply go out and get jobs that we don't know. But it is a very good question.

  5. I like the questions that Brynne and Yana brought up. Why don't people in these situations try to change their situations themselves? However, I really don't think it's possible for anybody to know what they're going through and how difficult it is to make things change for themselves.

  6. your first paragraph really sums up how i felt realizing that things so close to us are really this bad was hard to read.