Photo: Hiroyuki Takeda / Flickr

Chuck Collins may seem an unlikely activist. Born into the wealthiest 1 percent, he has dedicated himself to helping relieve the suffering of those at the very bottom of the 99 percent. He was raised in an affluent suburb of Detroit and attended elite private schools. He played tennis at country clubs and took trips to exotic destinations. He had a loving family, and his great-grandfather was Oscar Mayer, a German immigrant who cofounded the hot-dog empire. When Collins was sixteen, his father informed him that he was going to inherit part of the Mayer-family fortune as a trust fund. Collins’s reaction was complicated: he was relieved he’d have enough money to pay for college, but it also felt unfair.

Collins had first become aware of inequality in 1967, when Detroit’s black residents rioted against police brutality and racial injustice. He was transfixed by the violent images on TV and in the newspaper: buildings burning, armored tanks in the streets, and people dying just twenty miles from his home. It was obvious to the seven-year-old that other people’s lives were very different from his. He told his mother it wasn’t right. She agreed.

Read the full interview at The Sun Magazine.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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