When Exactly Did Welfare Become A “Black” Problem?

Last night, we and my friend were having a discussion about the fact that many states are attempting to pass legislation prohibiting welfare recipients from being able to spend the cash they receive on liquor, cigarettes, strip clubs, gambling and guns. After discussing how impossible that would be to enforce, my friend said something that sparked a very interesting conversation between us: “You know they just wanna pass these laws to make sure ratchet-ass Black folk can’t try and buy 20 inch rims and candy paint for their cars.” To which I replied, “hold up – why would anyone frame Welfare as a “Black” issue though?”

As far as he was concerned, the politicians, political pundits, and society as a whole have already dictated that welfare is an issue that predominantly effects Black people more than anyone else. He even pointed back to Rick Santorum’s quote he made in Iowa while trying to get the Republican nomination for president: “I don’t want to give Black people somebody else’s money, I want them to go out and earn their own money” [Ironically, 84% of Iowa’s welfare recipients are white]. My boy continued his point by stating “Hell, watch any report on CNN, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, or FOX news about welfare and the camera shots will mostly feature poor inner-city Black folk – yet, show NO trailer-park residing white folk.” He made a very valid argument, which prompted my NEXT question: When the HELL did welfare become a BLACK issue?

The FACTS are, 35.7% of welfare recipients are white, while 22% are Black. Food stamp recipients are 46.2% white to 37.2% Black. Now this is not to say that we should be BLAMING white people more than Black people – it just proves that we should be focusing on examining why there are SO many welfare recipients in the first damn place (an estimated 4.4 MILLION people) with an unemployment rate of 8.2% [as of last Friday]. Framing a terrible economic failure with overt racial tones is not only anti-intellectual and flat out WRONG – but even WORSE, it’s actually HARMFUL to making any progressive strides in dealing with the real issues at hand.

But before we attack the politicians and major media outlets for their careless and non-factual reporting, we need to clear up this issue amongst OURSELVES so we are no longer propagating our HATE and ANGER towards the wrong set of people. Anywhere you find upwardly mobile young Black professionals, you will also find the ridiculous anti-ratchet rhetoric that BLAMES un-and-under employed negroes for being lazy and frowsy and not MOTIVATED like THEY are. And therein lies the rub: Believing that important factors like systemic racism, educational mismanagement in the inner-cities and an old-predominantly White-Boys Club have ZERO impact on those numbers.

Should race be looked at to narrow the solutions for each individual community affected by high welfare statistics? OF COURSE. Should it be used as a weapon to degrade and blame an entire race? No. We know that all welfare recipients aren’t Black or White or honest or thieves, but if we want to have a serious, intelligent conversation, at least let’s get the BASIC facts straight.

This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.