Which is the GREATER Enemy? HIV or Systematic Poverty?
Earlier this year I attended the launch of a Faith Leaders Symposium in Houston, TX hosted by Metropolitan Interdenominational Church Technical Assistance Network (MICTAN). I was most inspired by Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove's presentation that addressed systematic poverty in America. As a result of the research presented I began to ask the question: Which is the GREATER enemy of the Black American community, HIV/AIDS or Systematic Poverty?
Dr. Fullilove opened by discussing how Dr. John Snow's research about the devasting effects of cholera in London led city officials to remove the handle from the Broad Street pump. Many believe that cholera was in the water and was spread to individuals who drank from that pump. Snow found that the deceased lived, went to school or worked near that pump and drank from it. At the height of the outbreak London officials began to sell clean water with only the wealthy being able to afford it and leaving the poor at risk for aquiring the disease. However, the rich were still impacted by the disease because many of them employed people who lived in areas surrounding the pump who carried the disease with them to their places of work.
Next, Fullilove presented research on impoverished communities in Bronx, New York in the 1970s. These communities had a high presence of poverty, crime and intravenous drug use. In an effort to remove the ills of the community there was a systematic closing of businesses and services with fire houses being the last services to be removed. With the fire houses removed the community was left to burn to the ground scattering the poor, the criminals and the drug addicted. According to Fullilove, research shows that there was a presence of an unknown disease among intravenous drug users in the area that was killing the infected drug users. As these people scattered, so did the unknown disease. Research later revealed that this disease was HIV and was present in these areas among the poor long before it was discovered among gay white men in San Francisco, CA.
Fullilove spoke about the government's systematic method of directing money away from black communities in America. A planned "undermining of neighborhoods" through sub-prime lending, gentrifiction, racial segregation, red-lining, deindustrialization, etc. More specifically, the Housting Act of 1949 was passed to supposedly eliminate eliminate slums. Years after its passage many surmise that public housing and urban renewal programs were "fosetering the slums and blight they were meant to eradicate." As a result, Urban Renewal was later dubbed "Negro Removal".
During the International AIDS Conference held in Vienna, Austria in 2010, CDC provided information from a research study that indicated that AIDS is most prevalent among people who are disproportionately poor regardless of race. The research further stated that Blacks in America are disproportionately poor and therefore are disproportionately affected by HIV.
I have never bought into the thought that HIV/AIDS is a conspiracy to eliminate the Black or gay communities. However, in taking a closer look at Dr. Fullilove's research and the research of others, I am beginning to wonder if POVERTY in the American Black community is the real enemy. As Blacks in America we have for generations been living within a society whose leaders have systematically determined who the rich will be and who the poor will be. Do any of the following sound like systematic ways to keep Blacks in America in impoverished living situations?
The fight for the right to vote in public elections;
The fight for the right to an equal education;
Poorly funded schools in predominately Black neighborhoods;
Stiffer penalities for Blacks found guilty for the committing the same crimes as Whites;
I certainly know the answers to these questions.