Senator Cotton Knows Kids Are Hungry

By Alyssa Burleson

The following is a response to Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s proposed bill to cut off federal funding to public schools K-12 that choose to teach the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project based upon his argument that the project is “left-wing garbage.”

I once traveled with a group of young United Methodists to D.C. for a seminar with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. We also had the opportunity to meet with Arkansas representatives regarding children who were food insecure in our home state.

Two of the representatives we met with took an hour of their day to listen to constituents who flew across the country to advocate for kids who didn’t have enough food to eat. I will never forget when Senator Tom Cotton entered the room we had been waiting in only to take a photo.

When we attempted to share about our cause, he told us he was also United Methodist, knew about our work, and did not need to be told anything else about it.

He missed hearing about the schools in Northwest Arkansas, towns bordering Walmart’s headquarters, where every student qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

He missed hearing about the food insecurity in poor, predominantly black, communities neighboring Scott, AR, a “former” plantation town.

He missed hearing that every time a child misbehaves at school, the first thing my mom asks is “What have you had to eat today?” The answer is many times “nothing.”

For so long I have been furious that he missed hearing these things. But, recently, something even more infuriating and sinister was made clear to me: He already knows.

Senator Cotton knows kids are hungry.

He knows Arkansas is the 2nd worst state in the country for food insecurity.

He knows we have food deserts and that parents working two jobs can’t put food on the table.

He knows all of this.

But he also knows that nearly 30 percent of all black people living in Arkansas are living in poverty, compared to only 13.7 percent of white people. He knows that there is a huge overlap between poverty and food insecurity.

And he knows it is easier to oppress people who are going hungry.

This proposed bill is violence.

Alyssa Burleson is a second year Masters of Divinity student and serves as the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at Harvard Epworth United Methodist Church. At BUSTH, Alyssa serves as the Vice President of the STH Student Association, Vice President of ThECOlogy, and as Hospitality Coordinator for the Wesleyan Student Association. Alyssa is a candidate for ordained ministry as a deacon in the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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