A Personal Reality Check on the 47 Percent

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

At Politico, political commentator Jamal Simmons says that we need a president who understands families like his, who had to work hard to keep things together.

Surely, among the 47 percent of Americans that Romney lumped into the victim or dependent category in his secretly taped remarks are parents of kids like me. There were days I stood in line at the market to buy government approved items such as milk, eggs, cheese, peanut butter or dry cereal. I wasn't the only person on public assistance in our neighborhood, but I felt like every eye in the store was watching me when I sheepishly handed the cashier the WIC coupons. While other kids wore designer sport shirts with polo player or tiger logos, I sat up at night with a needle and scissors picking at the threads of undesirable off-brand logos to remove telltale signs that my shirts were bought at discount stores. Once, after the hot water was cut off, the skin on my right arm bubbled and peeled away after I tripped while carrying a pot of boiling water from the kitchen to warm a bath.

Despite Romney's characterization, we didn't feel entitled. Instead, we were determined to have a better life. Mom went back to work only two weeks after my sister was born to earn extra money and get off assistance, and I studied hard in school. Luckily, teachers recommended me for accelerated academic programs, including one at the prestigious Fieldston School every Saturday, which helped me get admitted to two of the best public high schools in the country — Bronx Science and Cass Tech in Detroit, where I moved to live with my father after eighth grade.

Millions of kids in America, living in 47 percent families with parents working just as hard to hold things together as mine did don't get those kinds of breaks. Some make bad decisions that land them in the criminal justice system or on a Ferris wheel of mediocre jobs they hop in and out of.


Read Jamal Simmons' entire piece at Politico.

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