Poverty and the Ohio Media Circus, or When is a circus not entertainment

Recent buzz in the blogosphere has concerned itself with Kelly Williams-Bolar (Kelly Williams) a socially ambitious, presumably single mother of two young girls “trapped in poverty” and condemned to substandard schooling.

I became aware of the facts through an article on the progressive website, Truthdig: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste–Except in Ohio. The dramatic headline was accompanied by a picture of a straightened, nappy-haired black woman whose bloodshot eyes were on the verge of tears. Nothing like the attractive, forty year old woman pictured in the press

The reading trail led me to essayist, Marcia Alesan Dawkins www.marciadawkins.com and an abundance of media spin, from local ABC affiliate WEWS’ report on the sentencing, Woman Gets Jail Time in School Residency Case, to the Cleveland Leader’s confusingly headlined article, Mother Gets Jail Time for Lying to Get Kids in a Better School System and the Akron.com Community News and Notes website, Walsh Defends Prosectution of Williams-Bolar, moves to dismiss deadlocked charges

Headline writers and editorialists must be having a field day.

But this is the way a free press works.

The contest is between those who feel justified, by virtue of professional achievement or material wealth, living in an exclusive neighborhood and school district and those who believe that the dominant, materialistic discourse of our society has condemned a large segment of our citizens to permanent social disadvantage, an attitude we might forgive among certain minorities. The entire process, if one believes the Summit County Prosecutor (and we should believe her as the legitimate representative of the public order), was exacerbated by defendant Williams’ brinkmanship and insistence upon access to neighboring public spaces.

Did Kelly Williams and her father bring the problems upon themselves?

Only the people of Ohio and Summit County can say for sure. Even then, it may take judicial remedy, a lengthy appelate process and possibly even legislative remedy for justice to be served.

So where then does the issue lie?

At issue are the social values that define our public spaces, the right of public access and the old question of separate but equal. In a larger sense it is about how citizens in outlying counties, townships and municipalities insulate themselves from the social problems of neighboring jurisdictions. It is about metropolitan governance and a shared idea of citizenship.

The problem is not Ms Williams’ social ambition nor even her questionable character, but the failure of the State’s education system to anticipate and remedy the special needs of individuals trapped in poverty, the failure of the State to remedy something that is obviously separate and just as obviously, not equal.

The war on poverty is not something that is happening in far away Africa, South Asia or in the favellas of Rio de Janeiro. The war on poverty is happening in our own backyard. Ms Williams’ fight and the media circus that she inspired simply call attention to the rigidities of a system built around economic priviledge and material access.

The Kelly Williams case reminds us that ours is a shared destiny and that poverty has no place in the equation.

Leave a Reply