Top

Plight of Single Mothers

I did a double take “no, he didn’t say that!” when I read the mayor’s ignorant claim (October issue) that the “root cause” of current youth crime is a high rate of teen births in 1993. I was repulsed by his bias and disappointed that Riverwest Currents gave a voice to his foolish bigotry. Then I read Bushell’s editorial and understood why this ugly, unsubstantiated attack on young single moms was promoted. Mr. Bushell displays prejudice against both young moms and poor people in general. He agrees with Barrett’s unfounded mama-blame, adding that “young moms are ill-prepared for child rearing.” (All moms are, Vince! Often young moms have an advantage because they receive in-home help and mentoring from their own, experienced, mom.) Then he again puts his foot in his mouth: “We have a lot of poor people and many don’t have skills needed to be employed. These issues are passed on to their children.” In fact the majority of poor people in Milwaukee are “serving” our community in poverty-wage jobs at every retail store from Wal-Mart to Walgreen’s, every restaurant and fast food joint, every daycare center and nursing home, and every Temp agency. Then there are the poor people who suffer with disabilities, the poor elders, and the poor women caring for the injured, sick, disabled and elder people at home for no wage or a very low-wage. Finally there are the single moms who receive TANF welfare and have to provide unwaged workfare “service” to any non-profit or business who wants them, while single-handedly trying to raise healthy children in the face of poverty and Bushell/Barrett bigotry. Having worked with hundreds of children in poverty for 21 years in the Welfare Warriors MAY (Mothers and Youth) project, I find most poor children to be hard workers, and far more accustomed to working than the suburban children of my acquaintance. Poor children know how to work in the home, care for children, and take responsibility for their clothes and grooming. Whether their mom is at home with a disability, at home caring for young children, or working in the new-millennium poverty workforce, poor children learn responsibility at an early age. Would Barrett and Bushell blame suburban moms for the rising drug crimes commit by children in the suburbs? Would they advocate imprisonment for these young crooks who rarely see a jail? The burglary story’s emphasis on the lack of criminal (and even adult) prosecution/punishment of youth is a dangerous distortion. All studies show that trying children as adults is both harmful to society and to the children. The claim that criminal children “fall through the cracks” because they are not adults implies that there are no criminal jails, group homes etc for children when in fact they are overflowing with youth who are convicted of mostly non-violent crimes. Wisconsin has the largest imprisoned population in the country and that includes children–poor children, not suburban children. Strangely, the article failed to mention that children are considered guilty until proved innocent because there is NO bail system for children. A judge can freely lock up a child until the day of their trial and the child has no legal recourse. Children in Milwaukee are the defenseless targets of every level of political and corporate greed. Short on funds? Take away the kids’ swimming pools, park programs, after school programs, roller skating rinks. Make them try to learn in classes with 35 other children. Need low-wage workers for big business? Take away the children’s single moms to work for no wages and low wages. Need a bigger prison industrial complex to fund an army of professionals and gain millions of forced 30 cent an hour workers? Take away the children’s non-violent dads. Lock them up. It takes a village to raise a child. But too many Milwaukee children are struggling to survive without one. Ironically their “community” often revolves round the last remaining adult dedicated to them, that heroic single mom, who refuses to abandon them yet faces bigotry, hatred and blame for our communities’ many deadly failures. Pat Gowens

Gowens is the editor of Mother Warriors Voice, a 21-yearold, international, quarterly activist mothers-in-poverty newsjournal reporting on resistance in the war on the poor. Subscribe for $15-$25 ($5 victims of poverty). Send to 2711 W. Michigan, Milwaukee, WI 53208. Phone: 414-342-6662; WEB: welfarewarriors.org.