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Nelson George is a novelist, cultural critic, and filmmaker. After receiving his degree from St. John's University in 1982, George first worked for New York's Amsterdam News, later becoming an[…]

Poverty, George says, is not a Black issue.

Question: Does the Black upper class have a responsibility to the lower class?

Nelson George: You know I don’t know. I mean there’s a whole ___________. I don’t really . . . I’m not a big follower of leaders. I’m not a big advocate of the big, powerful leader thing. I think it’s about the people who make changes . . . Or changes are made every day by people who do the work every day. The kind of work my sister does – giving out condoms, talking to people – to me that’s leadership. And I don’t really expect a Wall Street guy or Richard Parsons . . . Dick Parsons can donate $20 million to whatever, and that’s great. But without teachers who on a day-to-day basis interact with the kids who are spending the $20 million, the $20 million goes out the door. So I’m not . . . I don’t really get . . . That whole thing that upper class . . . it doesn’t mean anything to me. I was raised up by a little old Black woman with two kids struggling in the projects who taught me how to read before I went to school. That’s leadership. So I don’t really worry about . . . I’m not worried about people . . . I don’t think . . . I think that’s a false, actually, even discussion because it presupposes that Black Americans have a particular responsibility to poor people that White Americans don’t. No one . . . You know does Stallone have a particular responsibility to make sure that working class Italians in Corona, you know, get helped? Probably not. Do rich Americans have a responsibility to poor Americans to help them get a more equitable opportunity in this country? Yes. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t think poverty is a Black issue. I think it’s an American issue.