The list goes on and on and extends far beyond the realm of personal morality and drug addiction. As the dire state of the economy eloquently testifies, the bad habits of the wealthy elite include a willingness to bend the law to create a phony real estate boom that wiped out the life savings of millions of people when it crashed. Their crimes, I would contend, did far more damage to society than those of the hundreds of thousands of black young men who are now languishing in prison for minor drug offenses. Yet they do not fall.
None of this is to say that members of the black underclass should be excused for their self-destructive behavior. It’s their responsibility to do all they can to lift themselves up while society — including government — does everything it can to help them out.
But as we go about the monumental task of creating more opportunity for upward mobility, we need to stop acting as though the poor deserve their plight just because they are bad people behaving badly. It’s much more complicated than that. If being a moral screw-up were the cause of being poor, some of the wealthiest and most powerful white folks in the world would be on skid row.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.