What it's like to be hungry in...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What it's like to be hungry in school

Rebecca Reynolds' letter ("Free Lunch," March 14) conveys no idea what a truly needy family goes through day to day or the impact of poverty on the children in these families.

I grew up seeing my mother struggle to keep the bills paid, keep us fed and clothed and buy medication for Dad. (Dad was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 15, and died a few years ago at age 42.)

One year, Mom managed all of this with only $8,000 for a family of five. Mom and Dad were both working that year at

minimum-wage jobs.

A few years later, Dad's illness became so severe he was unable to work. The amount of medication he required to stay alive increased, as did the time needed to take care of him.

Mom took part-time jobs to supplement his disability payments, and in the early 1980s she had a whopping $12,500 to support three school-age children and her disabled husband for a year.

During my school years, I remember one or two years receiving free breakfast and lunch at school. The rest of those years, we were eligible only for reduced-price meals because our family made too much money.

The amount of money my family received from the government was too much for us to qualify for food stamps or medical help.

Today, try to cut your yearly income to $15,000, with no medical benefits. Add medical and clothing expenses for three children and the special needs of a sick family member.

Then try to find the money for those feel-good, packed-with-love brown-bag lunches you think everyone can afford.

During school, those government subsidized breakfasts were the only ones I had. Dad's diet was very important, so we had to make sure he had breakfast every day. With our appetites, Mom could never have afforded cereal for all of us.

Lunch was not only the most nutritious meal of our day, it was also where we learned how cruel those who don't understand can be. Other children would make fun of those of us with meal tickets.

I understand now where those children learned to be so cruel. It was from parents who don't understand that poverty is not always a self-inflicted thing.

We did not want to be in the postion we were in, but we made the best of it.

Because of strong family support and a good education (and those affordable meals while we were growing), my siblings and I are healthy and happy. We have acquired well-paying jobs and have high hopes for our futures.

Had the school lunch program not been available, the education dollars spent on us would have been wasted. We would most likely still be a burden on the government and taxpayers. A child cannot learn on an empty stomach.

There are many ways to cut school and government spending. I don't feel this is a program we can afford to cut.

Ruth Woods

Baltimore

Bureaucrat boom

All the venom directed toward the federal bureaucracy may soon be alleviated via the Republicans' passage of the unfunded mandates bills and other attempts to deliver funds directly to the states in block grants.

However, has anyone yet stopped to consider that all these block grants will result in the massive blooming of the state bureaucracies?

Government, whether federal, state or local agencies, is already the No. 1 employer in many municipalities across this great land of ours.

These measures will probably shrink federal employment, but state and local government employment will boom.

Then the anger over those know-it-all bureaucrats will simply be re-directed toward Annapolis, Richmond, Harrisburg, Dover, etc. Is that better?

Are 50 bureaucracies better than one?

teve B. Scholl

Baltimore

The blame game

Section 3 of the defeated Balanced Budget Amendment would have required the president to submit to Congress a budget in balance.

For the 12 Reagan-Bush budget years, the Republicans blamed the Democrats in Congress for the imbalance.

For President Clinton's first two years, they blamed the Democrats and the Constitution.

Upon getting majorities in both Houses of Congress, they blamed the Constitution. Now that the amendment has been defeated, they blame the Democrats.

Quentin D. Davis

Aberdeen

The need for affirmative action

The recent observance of African- American History Month prompts a reconsideration of some legal and psychological factors which profoundly affect interracial etiquette in this country, particularly black-white relations.

Two of the efforts to establish a level playing field for all Americans have been the enactment of anti-trust laws and affirmative action measures.

The first of these protects society from unlawful restraint of trade, thus allowing individuals with small companies to compete effectively with those who would keep any competitor out of certain areas.

Without the anti-trust laws, only the favored people or companies would be allowed to compete with those who control the system.

The second, affirmative action, is designed to assure certain people, because of their race or gender, access to employment and educational opportunities.

These two legal measures serve to minimize or reduce the chances to monopolize undeserved privileges and level the playing field.

I submit that white privilege and male privilege are forms of monopoly that dominate all facets of life in America.

These concepts are definitively analyzed in a research paper prepared by Peggy Macintosh of Wellesley College and presented at the American Educational Research Association in 1986.

She defines white privilege as "an invisible package of unearned assets that act like a weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, code books, passports, visas, clothes, emergency gear and blank checks." Male privilege is similarly defined.

As a white person, she maintains that white Americans are unwilling to admit their unearned, over-privileged stations in our society.

Usually, the perpetrators of monopolistic acts are people or companies already entrenched in positions of power, i.e., people with white privilege.

Affirmative action protects people who have been denied access to certain stations or positions because of the prevalence of white privilege and male privilege.

These privileges are institutionalized and embedded and impede the progress of African-Americans (Blacks/Negroes).

Whites feel they have certain birthrights that endow them with the right to control all aspects of life in America as they see fit. As a group, white privileged males see blacks as "at-risk" people who are not of the same ethical status as they are.

The sense of meritocracy, thus engendered, is taught to all Americans. However, white privilege dominates, and people of this group have many doors opened through no virtue of their own or merit, but by the color of their skin.

Similarly, African-Americans (Blacks/Negroes) have many doors closed to them not by reason of their lack of merit, but by the color of their skin.

In an effort to remove affirmative action laws, some privileged whites are seeking to eliminate the level playing field which the federal government has from time to time sought to establish beginning as far back as the Emancipation Proclamation.

It is only through the actions of the federal government that African-Americans (Blacks/Negroes) have been able to partially participate in the American dream.

It is difficult to cope with the invisible systems that confer unsought dominance on those of privilege (privilege white) . . .

Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end the problems. The approach of most whites to equal opportunity seems to be equal opportunity to get into positions of dominance while denying that the system of dominance exists.

Slaves were set free and immediately became victims of economic, social and political intimidation and exploitation, and the ability to survive seemed almost impossible.

Today, African-Americans (Blacks/Negroes) are citizens of America, and civil rights and economic advancements are restrained.

The African-American (Black/Negro) males are approaching the status of an endangered species level.

Sometime ago, Charles Dickens wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Could this statement be as relevant today as it was when the states subverted the laws to keep the freedmen down?

Henry J. Goodman

Baltimore

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