300 Million: Living for the City

By Tammy Johnson Oct 19, 2006

A boy is born in hard time Mississippi Surrounded by four walls that aint so pretty His parents give him love and affection To keep him strong moving in the right direction Living just enough, just enough for the city…ee ha! I had to go way back to soul brother number one, Stevie Wonder’s 1973 hit Living for the City, to reflect on the meaning of this week’s race revelation. “It is possible to make an educated guess at who the 300 millionth American will be,” said demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution in an Reuters article on Monday, "I predict it’s going to be a Latino baby boy, born in Los Angeles to a Mexican immigrant mother." You can almost hear the collective screams. And not just from the Minute-Men-Save-Our-State-White purity crowd either! For some of us it’s coming from across the dinner table or across the neighbor’s fence. The harsh reality is that the more things change, the more things stay the same. In 1973 Stevie was riffing on the plight of southern blacks migrating North, and how “the man” conspired to keep them trapped in a system of subsistence. Fast forward to 2006, the boy is a few shades lighter, but no less put upon. In fact, Granddaddy Henry and baby Hector’s fate are linked by that same system. For example, the Federal Reduction Act of 2005 requires proof of citizenship for Medicaid recipients. One national estimate indicates that 3.2 to 4.6 million U.S. born citizens could lose their Medicaid benefits because they do not have a U.S. passport or birth certificate. Nearly one in ten elderly Blacks, for example, indicated that they do not have these documents. This year, California was unable to provide funding for counties providing universal health care for children, because opponents complained that undocumented children were receiving health services through these programs. Name any issue impact families and communities, be it affordable housing, quality public education, or meaningful employment and more than likely Black, Latino, Asian and Native folks find themselves in the same boat without a paddle. So this week’s focus is on little Hector. Next week they’ll complain about Nary’s mother taking him out of school to translate at the doctor’s office, or about Shawn’s inability to pass the exit exam. It’s the right song but the wrong tune. There is nothing wrong with our loved ones. It’s really about the system, the health care system, the public education system, the so-called judicial system, and what it does to our communities. We need to remember that when they get around to blaming Hector for traffic jams and budget deficits. I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow This place is cruel nowhere could be much colder If we don’t change the world will soon be over Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city!!!