Kozol\'s Amazing Grace: Trials and Tribulations of Everyday Life

Introduction

Jonathan Kozol\'s Amazing Grace is a book about the trials and
tribulations of everyday life for a group of children who live in the poorest
congressional district of the United States, the South Bronx. Their lives may
seem extraordinary to us, but to them, they are just as normal as everyone else.
What is normal? For the children of the South Bronx, living with the pollution,
the sickness, the drugs, and the violence is the only way of life many of them
have ever known.
In this book, the children speak openly and honestly about feeling ‘
abandoned\', ‘hidden\' or ‘forgotten\' by our nation, one that is blind to their
problems. Studying the people themselves would only get us so far in
understanding what their community is really like and why they feel this way.
Jonathan Kozol really got to know the people individually. We can take his
knowledge and stories to try for a better understanding of the environment in
which they live. By doing this, we can explore the many reasons why the people
have problems, what some levels of intervention could be, and possibly find some
solutions to making the South Bronx a healthier and safer place for these
children and others to live.

Problem Identification

The environment in which we study these people can only be defined by
first taking a look at possible reasons why the people have problems. Some of
the problems discussed in Amazing Grace have festered throughout the United
States for some time now. The high numbers of drug users in the community, the
high amounts of gang-related violence, and the numerous cases of people who have
contracted the AIDS virus are just some of the problems that have arisen in this
ghetto. There are many differences between this community and others in the
United States, one of which is that the government has grouped these people all
together and made a ghetto of the lowest income families. This has ostracized
them from the rest of the nation. It has given them many abandonment issues to
deal with, while also telling them they are not worthy of living among the
wealthier population.
Environmental factors are involved in the problems arising in the South
Bronx. Pollution, for example, could be the biggest source of the high number
of children in the community who have asthma. Asthma is a condition in which
one has trouble breathing. Without clean air, breathing for an asthmatic is
almost impossible. A waste burner in the middle of the South Bronx causes a lot
of pollution and makes the air the people breath, below safe levels of
cleanliness. Another environmental factor that affects the resident\'s healths
has to do with how most of the buildings in these neighborhoods are run down and
infested with rats. Many of the buildings have no working elevators. This
causes people to have to walk several flights of stairs each time they want to
leave their apartments. This is very time consuming and tiresome. Then, when
they find that there is so much violence and drugs in the street, that it is not
safe to be out there anyway, they usually end up staying in their apartments for
most of their free time.
The cultural differences between these people and others of higher
income communities is also a reason why they may have problems. Racism is very
obvious to the people of the South Bronx, especially when they go outside of
their district. If a woman from this area goes to a hospital outside of her
district, a hospital that is more than likely wealthier and cleaner, she is
usually turned away and told to go to a hospital in her own district. Others,
who are admitted into these hospitals, are put on a special floor, mainly for
the lower income or Medicaid patients. (Amazing Grace, p. 176)
Another way the government discriminates against them is how they are
housed. Most of the residents are living in government housing where the
government pays their rent. When the government helped the people to get off
the streets and out of homeless shelters and then put them into low cost housing,
they put all of the residents in the same area. This created their ghetto and
kept them segregated from the rest of the world.

Level of Intervention

If we look at these people through an exosystem, or “a setting in which
a person does not participate but in which significant decisions are made
affecting the person or others who interact directly with the