Last week, the highest Powerball prize in history was paid out to one lucky customer who bought a ticket in Altadena, CA, winning $2.04 billion.
That should be the end of the story. This anonymous winner should be left to enjoy their prize money while the rest of us losers continue to play the game, dreaming of the day when we might be so lucky.
But CNN, ever the home of liberal ideology and garbage news reporting, couldn’t just let this news story be left alone as it is. Nope, they had to make it — you guessed it — about racism.
The day after the winner was announced, CNN published an article explaining how because a higher concentration of businesses that sell lottery tickets – which could be anything from Powerball slips to scratch offs — are in communities with higher populations of black people, it must mean that the government is targeting black people and using their funds from the lottery to benefit everyone but those same people. It further claimed that the lottery distinctly takes advantage of vulnerable people who are looking for a quick way to get out of a bad financial situation.
“They’re hoping to pay their rent at the end of the month or pay an outstanding medical bill or put their kids through college or they just lost their job and they’re just trying to find a way to make ends meet,” Les Bernal, national director for “Stop Predatory Gambling,” said. “And here you have what is a government program encouraging citizens to lose their money on rigged games.”
CNN’s article also cited a study published by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism which claims that because many state governments do not spend their share of the lottery winnings on lower-income education school systems, the lottery system is racist. Michigan was used as an example in the Howard article of how its state government spends very little on low-income education systems as a “surefire” way to prove that the lottery is racist.
Except, it’s not.
Everyone, whether you’re a black man in Compton, LA or a white guy in upstate New York, knows for a fact that their chances of a two-dollar lottery ticket turning into a big payday like the most recent Powerball are incredibly low (after all, the odds of winning last week’s big prize were 1 in 292.2 million). Everyone with an average level of common sense expects that they will lose more than win in any lottery game. So the argument that state governments target black people is pretty shortsighted and impossible to back up – unless you are looking for something to be racist. Plus, the wording in the CNN article makes it seem like black people have no self control on whether or not they participate in these “rigged” games, which frames black people as stupid and lacking in self-control.
Likewise, it’s nearly impossible to characterize how governments spend lottery proceeds as racist simply because it doesn’t go to low-income schooling. States can spend that money on infrastructure, funding colleges, or a host of other things that should be seen as good investments and that could benefit a wide variety of people.
Now, there certainly could be a debate on how the state chooses to spend its share of the earnings. For example, in the case of Michigan, the Howard article showed they spend the bare minimum per year on funding schools in some communities strongly affected by poverty, so maybe more could be allocated to these places within each state.
But money is fungible and governments are generally lousy financial stewards.
So the next time that you go to buy a Powerball ticket or a scratch off, just know that you are not a racist contributing to systemic inequality or the continued poverty cycle in low-income communities. You’re an average person playing the game in the hopes of winning a big prize, just like everyone else.