Letter to the editor: Poverty & hunger are universal, but racism shouldn’t be

Many years ago, 1971, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines with my husband Paul and our four children. I worked and lived among the poor. I saw poverty that often one could only believe because you saw it firsthand: a man lying on the sidewalk leaning against a building with only a newspaper covering his dirty nude body; walking along a plank to keep from walking in black sewage water as I went to visit a home with walls lined with brown paper, located right where the tide flowed in beneath the homes every day — the tide doesn’t take a vacation; dirty little kids begging for money; little kids vomiting up pure rice. The list goes on and on. Today it is still much the same. Should the Philippines be on the list of ones to keep out?
We traveled through Europe after leaving the Philippines and the first thing I saw when I entered France was a beggar, in a filthy suit rummaging through a trashcan. Should we put this country on the list of ones to keep out?
When Paul was Vermont Commissioner of Agriculture, 1985, we took a trip to Honduras to see about a partnership with the country. In part we relived poverty all over again as we faced shacks and starving kids. Maybe this country should go on our keep out list.
Those are just a few countries with horrible poverty that too many people live in — but wait, there is one more I’m very familiar with. It’s pretty bad in places, all kinds of terrible, terrible living conditions, too many hungry kids, too much violence. It, like other countries, has places nobody really wants to live and always hopes to get out of.
When my dad was a kid in this particular country he was dirt poor — poorer than a church mouse as the saying goes. He remembers being hungry and his family not being able to buy a loaf of bread. He was one of a lucky uneducated few who was able to get out of that awful poverty. Some of his siblings weren’t so lucky. And that country today still has some pretty darn awful poverty all over it that I have seen. Should that country be told to keep out? Interesting question since my dad and his parents and great grandparents and so on were born in that country the United States of America.
And then there are all those people with colored skin who make up all those poor sections of the different countries. But back up a minute. Colored skin; variations of white, variations of black and brown, variations of yellow. Poverty doesn’t pick skin color. Far as I can tell you can be any color and be dirt poor, hungry, with a leaky roof, depressed, angry, finding no way out, and nobody seems to care. And you can be in any country, even the United States of America. Poverty knows no skin color or boundary. If nobody cares it can spread like a disease even in the United States of America.
So who are we suppose to keep out? Can’t quite figure it out; the ones coming legally, the ones coming illegally, or everybody?
One thing I know for sure, we have people who feel we should only let whites in and somehow reduce those who aren’t white, like put them in jail. That should be interesting because I’m not sure how you would figure out who is all white. I’m white but my skin sure isn’t white and I turn quite brown when exposed to the sun and can be darker than some people of color I know. Thomas Jefferson’s family was white but he did a pretty good job of mixing things up. Matter of fact, the white people in this country from the day they set foot on our shores have done a pretty good job of mixing us up — one of the reasons we have so many beautiful tones of brown to black and variations even of white.
I do know we have a tendency to treat our poor white a little better than our poor people of color — especially our African American people. Heck, we have a tendency to treat almost everybody better than our African American citizens who have been with us from the beginning helping to build our country, despite being treated so cruelly. Sadly there are those who still feel African Americans are not as good as they are, not as smart, not as deserving. And that is what we call racism.
When President Trump referred to Africa — which, by the way, is a continent made up of many countries of people of different colors and different educational levels and standards of living — and Haiti as ****holes, he made it sound like they were the filth of the earth and not deserving of coming to our country, even legally. No matter how you shake, it was a racist remark. Some try to defend him by saying there are places in those countries that are ****holes. He was speaking the truth. Well, yes there are and I repeat they are in our country too. And I repeat I have seen them too. And everybody living in them in any country wants out.
I don’t care if you are a liberal, a conservative, or somewhere in between, no matter what your religion or lack thereof, your color or where your roots come from. What I do care about is our country, and above all else our country as a democracy and our form of government that is based on its people and its three divisions — the Congress, the Executive and Judicial. A government that is supposed to protect all of its people — I repeat, all of its people. All lives matter and let us not forget Black lives matter too. Our democracy cannot and should not pick one group of people over another.
Racism has always been a part of our country’s mix and it’s hurting us. We have a president that is racist and he has let his personal feelings on the subject flood out into our country, in both obvious and subtle ways. That is why I feel his comment on Africa and Haiti is racist and that it hurts us rather than helps us. We will always have racism as a part of the human race. It is all over the world. We cannot let its ugly head rule our country or the world. Our president, along with others, is using it and immigration as a tool to hurt us and keep us divided.
Frances L. Stone

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