Home > Americans and Asylum Seekers Under Siege

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“Pittsburgh is a very hard city, especially if you are Black..

When I was 22 years old, each day had to be continually negotiated.

It was rough.”

-August Wilson-


“…Hard times in the city
In a hard town by the sea
Ain't nowhere to run to
There ain't nothin' here for free
Hooker on the corner
Waitin' for a train
Drunk lyin' on the sidewalk
Sleepin' in the rain
…Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live, just to live”



Describing the excruciating experience of having lost her son and 16-year-old grandson to gun violence in Baltimore, Ms. Arnetta Brown stated, “This violence will suck all of the breath out of your body and will wake you up in the middle of the night and make you think you are suffocating.”  (Baltimore Sun, July 11, 2019).  Thousands of others find it “hard just to live” in Baltimore as, for 5 years in a row, hundreds of homicides have been the norm.  A new homicide record might be set in 2019.  As if sirens were calling, similar human wreckage takes place in Pittsburgh.

A recent RAND study indicated that being Black in Pittsburgh is as hard, if not harder, than reflected in the above quote years ago by August Wilson.  For example, Pittsburgh Blacks are 6 times more likely than a White to go to bed hungry; earn less than half as much pay; have children 4 times more likely to be hospitalized with asthma; 9 times more likely to be homeless; and 9 times more likely to die from violence (See essay by Doug Irving, July 2, 2109).

Given the enormity of the ongoing destruction of Blacks in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and elsewhere, one is left to wonder what would happen if the following facts were true for any of the American cities with the largest White populations.

  •         White children, women, and men were murdered annually at a rate of a city 12 times its size;
  •         White men had a 10% chance of being murdered before age 35;
  •         The predominantly White city averaged 300 murders and 500 shooting victims per year;
  •         Public schools heavily populated with White children had abysmal graduation rates and standardized test scores;
  •         Mayors, police chiefs, and other public officials were forced to step down because of criminal activities;
  •         Whites experienced some of the worst health disparities in the nation;
  •         Whites’ income was only half that of others; and
  •         The city’s White population was mired in conditions worse than those currently being experienced by people seeking asylum on the southern border?

The above hellish circumstances constitute the daily experiences of many Blacks throughout America.  Therefore, as Black Americans sigh, sag, and surrender to systemic oppression, one can be conflicted between devoting efforts to [1] address the horrible exigency faced by would-be immigrants on our southern border and [2] attend to the equally bad if not worse circumstances experienced by many Blacks and other American citizens. 

Regarding the would-be immigrants, there is the need to immediately address things such as the stench and filth they are forced to endure while held in cages; the separation of children from parents; and the depravity of drinking water from toilets.  Simultaneously, there is the urgent need to right the long-term oppression experienced by Black Americans who, tragically, were some of the earliest Americans to experience White men not only separating Black babies from their mothers but also, with no sense of shame, raping their female slaves. In my opinion, only those with sociopathic emotions woulddeny the provision of high-quality health care for those seeking asylum decisions and, of course, immediate intervention is required.  At the same time, it is difficult to reconcile the failure to provide Black and other needy citizens with access to affordable, high-quality health care.  Similarly, there should be an unequivocal “yes” regarding whether to provide decent living quarters for those awaiting immigration decisions as well as an unequivocal “yes” regarding needy citizens gaining access to high-quality affordable housing

As we determine how best to help asylum seekers, we must remember that it is not just the vast majority of Blacks who are suffering.  The top 1% of White-male-dominated America continues to suck the lifeblood from the majority of our citizens!  Lynn Nottage’s play, “Sweat,” forecasted the increasing human carnage associated with many in working-class America who, without jobs, cannot afford aspects of the American dream such as having their children go to college.  There will be more distraught cities such as Boise City, Idaho; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Toledo, Ohio; and Worcester, Massachusetts.  “Coal Country” has not come back and it is unlikely that it ever will return. 

In short, while attending to the current mistreatment of people on the southern border, we must not lose sight of the fact that so many of the tired, hungry, and poor are Americans who are long overdue the promises associated with American citizenship.  Let us not be fooled by POTUS 45 playing the old “three-card monte” trick of trying to follow the “money card” --in this instance, ”gas lighting” us regarding the “immigrant invasion” and seducing us into not coming to the immediate aid of our needy citizens.   

We cannot allow POTUS 45’s seemingly Hitler-like fear tactics draw our attention away from things such as [1] the federal minimum wage has not been raised for the longest time without an increase, millions of Americans suffer accordingly, and the super-rich just received tax breaks; [2] millions of domestic workers are not covered by federal labor laws and it was just this July that Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Domestic Bill of Rights legislation; [3] there continues to be inadequate research related to addressing sickle cell, lupus, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health problems that disproportionately impact Black Americans; and [4] encouraged by the “leader of the free world,” rabid racists rant “send her back!” 

Let us grab all of the “bull” by the horn and come to the aid of our needy citizens as well as the people seeking asylum!  Let us end forcing asylum seekers to drink out of toilets and, at the same time, end Michigan citizens drinking poisoned water from faucets in their homes!   And for those who have the audacity to tell any American to “go back to where they came from,” my request is that they and their family members lead by example as opposed to pontification!


Jack L. Daniel,

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black


July 23, 2019

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