In the Ghetto

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The Vicious Cycle|
Born Into Poverty
Based on the song “In the Ghetto” Composed by: Mac DavisRecorded by: Elvis Presley, 1969|

Renee Jayne

When Mac Davis wrote the song “In the Ghetto,” later recorded by Elvis Presley in 1969, he personified an inequality that he felt and experienced firsthand as a child. Growing up in Lubbock, Texas, Davis’ father, a small building contractor, employed an African American by the name of Alan Smith. Alan Smith had a son that was the same age as Davis and they often played together while their father’s went to work. (Sharpe) It became apparent to Davis, that unlike him, his playmate grew up in a different environment, an environment that would indicate poverty and crime. Thus, the inspiration for his song began. The term “ghetto,” often used to describe situations during the Holocaust, became a common term in American context, beginning in the late 60’s. (Sharpe) The goal during the Holocaust was to segregate those that were unwanted, a frequent reminder by the wall that enclosed them. It was a world of despair, poverty, and a situation where there was little hope of escaping. Metaphorically speaking, the ghetto today is similar in concept to the ghettos during WWII, in that the wall remains to segregate this population. In today’s economy, this populated area is termed as the projects. These areas are often considered to be inundated with drugs and violence. During the Great Depression, public housing was in great need. With unemployment reaching 25 percent, many families could no longer afford housing and slum areas in cities began to grow. In 1933, the government federally funded the first public housing. This project provided housing for 604 white families; in addition, it would provide construction work to approximately 2000 workers. (Encyclopedia) These works upset proprietors who argued that government subsidized housing would drive the price down on their own property, due to the law of supply and demand. Additionally, as the economy started to grow unemployment fell and incomes and consumption increased. Some people living in government housing remained even though their incomes had increased; hence, angering private property owners even more. To alleviate this new concern, changes were made to this discretionary policy by placing a higher percentage on rent, thereby evicting those that could afford to do better. (Bratt) Currently there are still people that believe that their property value will be lower if public housing is located in their vicinity. The problem lies, according to Habitat for Humanity, “that there is not a single county in the U.S. where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at what HUD determines to be Fair Market Rent.” (International) A poor little baby child is born in the ghetto, and his mama cries. Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need it’s another hungry mouth to feed in the ghetto. (Lyrics 007) Davis illustrates a child that is born unto a mother that bears primary responsibility, already has other children she cannot financially support, and she is living in poverty; a grim reminder that this child already has challenges ahead of him. More often than not, the father is often absent from the child’s life. Nearly 30 percent of the 13 million families that are impoverished are unmarried women with children. (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor and Smith) In this mother’s situation, she may have to weigh the cost of working or not working. In the past, the government’s welfare program reduced the incentive to work. The more you earn the less benefits received. With the welfare reform act, known as The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, the idea was to put people back to work, provide childcare assistance, receive a wage supplement through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and receive job training, an incentive to escape welfare support. While this helped in one sense by...
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