Some years ago I read an article in Ebony magazine written by a man who had grown up in one of the worst black tenement ghettos in Chicago. Drug dealing, crime and violence were the everyday reality and the police felt the area was too dangerous to send in individual officers to patrol.
Like almost all the other children in this ghetto, this man and his two siblings grew up in a single parent home without much money. Their mother wanted her children to escape the ghetto and the first step was not to give in to hopelessness. She introduced them to the library and to museums and did everything that she could think of that was educational and free. When they went to the store to buy something she let the children pay and then count the change to see that it was right.
All three of those children finished school, went on to university and established professional careers. And they moved their mother out of the ghetto.
The man who wrote the article was now a lawyer. He wrote about going back to visit his old neighbourhood and trying to look up the boys he had grown up with. Some were dead, others were in jail, all the rest had criminal records. None had escaped the hopelessness of the ghetto.
There are a multitude of government programs to help children escape the effects of prejudice and poverty. Billions of dollars are being spent. What are the results? A lot of well paid government jobs to administer the programs. Besides that – not much.
One mother with hope and determination made a difference. No government program can create a mother like that.