Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shaming the Poor - What Does It Cost Us?

I've talked before about growing up dirt poor, and how that affected me and my family. I'm not sure I've ever lived above the poverty line, actually. Poverty is a very real problem around the world as well as in our country. I appreciated this article by Jeff Nall of Truthout because it makes some very valid points about how poverty is treated in our society, and how and why that treatment should change.

Scholarly communities generally agree that it is wrong to disallow a fellow scholar's participation in a conference due to their race, sexuality, nationality or citizenship, or gender. There is not, however, an equal objection to excluding people on the basis of their economic standing. As a poor scholar tasked with supporting a family, I have been embarrassed to have had to apologetically cancel participation in conferences because of economic limitations that made me unable to pay for registration fees and travel costs. In the realm of health care, poverty has meant choosing tooth extraction over tooth repair because I didn't have insurance and couldn't afford the procedure. My missing tooth is a constant reminder that the poor are routinely denied basic human dignity in our society, even when they are recipients of racial, gender, and/or sexual privilege. If this is true of white, male, heterosexual, educated American poor people, then it is likely worse for those who are additionally "othered" due to race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality or citizenship status, and/or education.

Some people who are poor often try to "pass" as middle class. They simply keep silent about their economic conditions, quiet on the healthcare they need but can't afford, quiet that the reason they can't attend an event or outing with friends, family or coworkers is because they don't have the money. 

Perhaps most gravely, poor people hide their status by being silent when others speak about the poor. Since being poor is associated with vice, the last thing many poor people want to do is both be poor and be identified with other poor people. 

Click through to read the entire article. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Related posts:
Poverty and Hunger (Blog Action Day)
Women Bear the Brunt of Hunger
We Need a New System of Economics


Anonymous said...

We use money to keep score. So, if you don't have any money, you're not a very good player. Assuming all things equal, which they never are, though its apparently important to a lot of people to pretend that we are all equal, & have an equal chance.

I liked the comment about passing for middle class. I see a lot of people do this, as well as middle class people putting on 'airs'. I try not to do this. I refer to myself as a peasant, & I don't think of it as pejorative, simply accurate.

dixiebelle said...

I grew up very poor and knew it. I am fairly poor today as well but happy. I could be on welfare and food stamps but choose not to be. We just do without luxuries like cable tv and trips to the hair salon. We buy our clothes from Goodwill.

Society does look down on those who are poor or who need assistance to live. I guess I pass for middle class except for my big mouth which is happy to tell folks that I am poverty level with my job that I love. I'd rather be poor and happy than rich and always wanting more.