Have you ever thought about what we live around? The University of Alabama has a beautiful campus and Tuscaloosa has a nice midtown and downtown area. If you live near those areas, have you ever noticed what the rest of Tuscaloosa looks like? We live in a city where the household median income is about $16,000 under the country’s average and the poverty rate is 25.7%, more than double the U.S. average of 11.8%. That is unacceptable.
Throughout this country, the division between the rich and the poor is becoming more evident. Neighborhoods and schools may be close in distance, but in less than a mile there is a range of living from six-figure homes to Section 8 housing. Children who live in these low-income areas can see the life that people live a few streets down, but systemic barriers make that world seem out of reach.
There are so many factors that go into crushing “The American Dream” for vulnerable people in this country, who are historically people of color. Whether it is lower quality education or rampant poverty, average people generally do not try to fix those kinds of issues concerning the low quality of life for millions of Americans because they are viewed as too big of a problem to solve. A fixation on issues at the federal level has torn down a structure in our country that people rely on and trust: small government.
As young adults, we know the kind of society we want to live in, but for some reason, we are not willing to change the one we live in now because “it’s too complicated.” Young people are working to make a change on huge political issues like climate change, so why can’t we make radical change down the street?
Local government and political efficacy of the people is the most important kind of change we can make because it is what directly affects our everyday life. Funding for things like the police and fire department, community development, public transportation, road systems and education all fall under the city’s budget plans. All of those things go underfunded or misused which leaves those in need at a loss, and the likelihood of this ever changing is dim.
One of the government’s jobs should be to improve low-income areas because the “free market” is not driven to those places. Impoverished areas do not have Cheesecake Factory or locally owned boutique shops because the prices they charge are out of the consumers’ reach there. Alabama specifically ranks close to last in education, medium income, infant mortality rate and tax revenue, and our elected officials need to be held responsible for their shortcomings.
One thing that makes the federal government so inefficient is the fact that they have an entire country to look after. Alabama’s population makes up 1.4% of America’s population so depending on them to take action regarding roads, education and community development is hopeless. Elected officials need to take back the power that they originally held and use it to push this state in the right direction. We need to become more involved in small politics to get things done. We have a voice and we need to speak up for those who cannot do it themselves.
It is our job as citizens of this country and this state (whether you are here for college or living here permanently) to help those who have less opportunity and hold elected officials responsible for not supplying them with the aid they deserve. We have to speak up for those who cannot.