Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., who is African-American, wandered the hills of eastern Kentucky recently in order to talk about what he calls, “the great white whale of American social discourse,” white poverty. Not many people talked to him. As Pitts details in the essay, reporters, nor any other kind of media, really, have not been kind to the region. But he wanted to make a larger point, too, about the racialized way in which Americans discuss poverty. He writes:
Our deeply racialized view of poverty bears no resemblance to reality. Though it’s true that African Americans are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line, it is also true that the vast majority of those in poverty are white: 29.8 million people. In fact, there are more white poor than all other poor combined.
So Pitts went to the epicenter of white poverty, Owsley County, Kentucky in order to make his point about changing the country’s narrative around our images of the poor.
Read Pitts’ essay at The Miami Herald, in particular, his assessment of the “nexus between white poverty and blackness.”