I wrote this song about a decade ago when I was in the midst of researching the No Child Left Behind Act that Congress passed in 2001. I had naively assumed that our public school system was somewhat standardized across our great nation, and was shocked to learn some of the grim realities that exist in our poorest school districts that no one ever talks about, save for a few journalists. Where you live and the community that you’re raised in determines the quality of education that you have access to. The inequity is haunting and inspired me to write this song.
In general the wealth disparity in this country haunts me daily. Watching the poor get poorer is so painful and overwhelming that it’s tempting to dehumanize these populations by assuming it’s not as bad as it is, or worse, assume that somehow they don’t feel as bad as I would given the same situation. It’s an ugly denial, and I know that it’s not true. Each and every one of us is alike with the same big hopes and dreams and feelings of despair. Parts of my past have given me a sense for the misery that festers in a place where there is no hope, and in its absence fear and hate grow like wildfire.
To those with the privilege to say I would never let myself get that desparate or become that broken, do not assume you are stronger than the people born into those situations. You might have been an outlier able to rise above the trajectory of your circumstances, but those are few and far between. It is more likely that you would have fared no better, and in some cases perhaps even worse, than the people you judge and shame for their lack of “success”. I should practice what I preach for I have spent most of my life shaming myself for not rising farther above my own past, and continue to learn how to give myself and others the compassion and understanding I choose to believe we all deserve.
The consequences of growing up in poverty are great, and the meritocracy propaganda that we live in a free country where everyone can realize their dreams is such a slap in the face to individuals living in communities that have been economically oppressed for decades. This song is my way of trying to give a voice to the voiceless.