Homelessness Perspective

You probably heard about the fraternity at the University of Oklahoma that was nailed because a video was uncovered of its members engaging in a vile racist chant. The fraternity was shut down and two of its members were expelled.

Less likely is that you heard about the Congressman who suggested that one solution to the homeless problem would be to let loose wolves on them and let the wolves do their work. What action was taken against the Congressman? No media firestorm. No recall effort. Not even any censure or demand for an apology. In short, no nothing.

Most everyone was outraged by the behavior of the fraternity—other U of O students, the university administration, the fraternity’s national HQ, not to mention the general public—and rightfully so. No one would accept the explanation the frat brothers were just “joking,” having some fun “fueled by alcohol.” Their little ditty was hate speech, purely and simply. (No chant that refers to lynching black people is even remotely funny.)

But why weren’t the Congressman’s comments equally considered hate speech? Why is it that the media didn’t even pick up on the story? (The news from the University of Oklahoma was the top story on the CBS Evening News on the night I watched, while the only way I know about the Congressman’s “wolves” remark was through a Twitter feed I receive from The Washington Post.) Is the reason for the huge collective shrug that the homeless have become that last acceptable group about which they can express their disdain and disgust without any public reproach?

Let’s put the Congressman’s words to the test. The word “homeless” describes a set of people under which there are many varied subsets—as is often said, the only thing that all homeless people hold in common is that they are without shelter. If we identified those subsets and substituted them in the Congressman’s remarks, how would they then sound?

Surveys have pretty consistently determined about 40% of homeless people nationwide are coping with some form of mental illness. So if we had the Congressman saying that the way to settle everything would be by setting wolves on the mentally ill, how would that sound?

The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is children. How about settling the problem by setting the wolves on poor children?

If others looked at Congressman’s attitudes in this way, would the needle on their outrage meters budge even a bit? Or would the decision-makers at CBS, CNN, and all the other media outlets still consider it nobody’s news, because there were no ratings in it. Nobody cared.

In an interview that was also published this week with Eric Tars, the senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, he said,

The crisis of homelessness provokes crisis responses, responses where people aren’t thinking things thoroughly through. . . .

It really is about who we are as Americans. On the Statue of Liberty, the plaque reads, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. Send the homeless to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door, but now we’re saying don’t send me your homeless. Even the homeless that are already here, we’re not lifting our lamp beside the golden door, we’re lifting our police baton beside the gilded gates of a gated community. It’s a different concept of who we should be, as Americans. I think we need to return to our best ideals, rather than the worst nightmares that we are becoming.

(This was not authored by me.  I was not sure if the author wanted wide exposure so I did not include his name.  If that is important to you, contact me.  Cecil Denney)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s