Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Tavis Smiley Headshot

Get in the Way!

Posted: Updated:

My grandmother used to always encourage me to "get in the way." That was her way of telling me that well behaved folk rarely get things done. Especially when it comes to challenging the political power structure.

Sure, there is a price to pay for trying to tell the truth, but isn't there an even higher price to pay for living a lie?

In this election season, how many of us are living a lie by remaining silent and static about things that should matter -- practicing a politics of convenience and cowardice, rather than a politics of courage and conviction?

We know that 150 million Americans are living in or near poverty, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that all children deserve access to an equal, high quality education, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that folk need a "living wage," not this shameful "minimum wage," but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that gun violence in poor communities is run amok, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that people across America are going hungry, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know too many folk who are unemployed and underemployed, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that too many seniors have to make an unfathomable choice between food and medicine, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know fellow citizens who have no access to transportation, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know, and can actually feel, that something is wrong in the environment, but we choose not to get in the way.

We know that mothers and children are falling fastest into poverty, but we choose not to get in the way.

Poverty, much of it abject poverty, is the new American norm. How much longer can we choose not to get in the way?

In just a matter of days, the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to report out that poverty in America is on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century. We expect to be told that suburbs, underemployed workers and our precious children are being hit the hardest. This grim news will hit just as the sprint from Labor Day to Election Day gets underway.

What will President Obama and Governor Romney have to say about this ominous and dark cloud hanging over the most prosperous nation on the globe (with the lowest minimum wage in the Western world)? Heck, will it even come up in the presidential debates? The last time around, we endured three debates between Obama and McCain where the words "poor" or "poverty" didn't even come up. Not once. The candidates never raised it, and the moderators never asked about it. With poverty now contesting the dignity and humanity of so many fellow citizens, we'll see what happens this time around.

Do we truly believe that every American citizen deserves access to life's basic necessities?
If so, then it's time to get out of our respective lanes. It's time for somebody to get in the way.