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The United States Senate has authorized 13.6 billion dollars for emergency military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine with growing pressure to provide more assistance. The funds will be used for food, medicine, shelter and support for the two million refugees that have fled the country because of the Russian invasion.
I understand exhibiting humanitarianism and being empathetic to the people of Ukraine. I also understand being diplomatic and fighting against tyranny.
What I don’t understand is if America can easily give other countries billions of dollars in humanitarian aid, why can’t our government apply that same energy here at home?
I raised this same question about student loan forgiveness in a piece I wrote about President Biden’s State of the Union Address. That speech was when I first got wind of how much money we were giving the war-torn country. But, I also noticed how POTUS failed to provide an update on his promise of relief to us 46.4 million Americans saddled with student loan debt.
In addition to student loan debt forgiveness, I can think of a few other matters 13.6 billion dollars can be used for to aid Americans. Homelessness is one.
Americans need humanitarian aid
A few days ago, police were on the hunt for a serial killer that shot five homeless people on the streets of New York City and Washington D.C. While a suspect is now in custody, just imagine if the two victims killed had adequate housing provided by the government. Their lives could have possibly been saved.
The New York Times reported that assaults against unsheltered people are rising. Between 2009 and 2019, there were close to 2,000 attacks and nearly 500 of those were fatal. If this is a significant issue, why isn’t there more effort and investment in providing shelter, permanent housing and other services for the unhoused? That $13.6 billion could help.
While we may be unsure of the individual motives that drive these attacks, we know that mental illness certainly plays a role. Not only does it plague one-third of the homeless population and is a reason why they’re on the streets, it also affects millions of Americans in general. Giving billions to increase mental health services would certainly support that demographic in coping with their illnesses.
Americans need a robust education
Those billions in humanitarian aid could also improve the quality and delivery of public education.
We kick the word “equity” around nowadays like it’s a rock on the street. Yet, predominantly Black and Latino school districts receive $5,000 less in per pupil funding compared to ones that are mostly White and wealthy.
Also, many teachers are overworked and underpaid. Both those realities have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Billions could go a long way in helping to close that funding gap and realize a more quality education for marginalized groups and enhanced teaching experience for educators.
Black Americans need reparations
Lastly – and I may lose a few people here but, whatever – billions are owed in reparations to Black Americans. Continuing to ignore the pain and trauma inflicted on our ancestors and the harm it’s caused generations, and continuing to dismiss the pervasive oppression that hampers our communities today, is a slap in the face. A direct contradiction of justice.
Just as the United States will likely continue to support Ukraine after the war, restoration and restitution for enslaved Africans and their descendants should not be bound by an expiration date.
The same issues the Ukrainians are facing now, we’ve been battling for centuries and on a daily basis–food insecurity, lack of housing options, lack of access to medicine, healthcare and mental health services, plus more. So while many of us have our eyes on the crisis in Ukraine, the crises we face here at home are killing us.
Our government can have empathy and bestow humanitarian aid to allies like Ukraine. It also has to practice meaningful and intentional investment to exterminate the societal ills thriving in our own backyard. And we have to be diligent in making them do so.