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Letter: Lifting Minorities Out of Poverty

To the Editor:

Tom Dreisbach wrote (Forum, March 2) in response to an earlier letter from us. It is always a pleasure to read a response; we know at least one person has read the letter and cared enough to offer an opinion, even though, in this case, the writer accuses us of being “naive.”

Mr. Dreisbach is right: We do “dismiss a lack of values and discipline as underlying the violence that occurs within city minority communities.” However, we don’t think we are “denying the truth.” To us, it seems clear that the reason we have such a low rate of violence in New Hampshire has everything to do with the fact that we live in a rather bucolic environment with open spaces and mostly small, uncongested cities and have a fairly homogeneous population. We suspect Mr. Dreisbach would agree with us. And we are not so naïve as to be unaware that the majority of the violence in this country takes place in dense inner-city neighborhoods, often populated by minority groups.

However, it seems to us that it is not a lack of values and discipline that begets violence but a lack of education and economic opportunity. When pre-school programs, mental health support, food stamp aid and other social services are discontinued in communities because of a lack of government support, and when the gap between those at the very top and those much farther down continues to increase, there’s where the problem lies. What is “truth” to Mr. Dreisbach and his lawyer friend seems myopic to us. In fact, it seems easy to blame the so-called lack of values of the “undisciplined” black minorities as being the crux of the problem. That lets us off the very hook that Mr. Dreisbasch says belongs to us.

He is right about the inability to learn values from a struggling teenage mother or an incarcerated father, but this is the visible surface of a problem that involves each of us in a much deeper way than declaring that minority groups lack a moral center. The question is how can we work to heal our economic structure so that minorities can lift themselves out of poverty and regain economic equilibrium? Respect for life begins with the ability to have a life of modest means and opportunity.

Judy and Bob McCarthy