Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kicking the poors

You'll never ever ever go "broke".. politically speaking... by beating up on the broke.
Although Americans don’t like the impoverished in general, the cases of Walter Scott and Eric Garnershow it’s particularly easy to deny the black poor humanity. During the infamous 2014 water shutdowns in Detroit, Common Dreams’ Kim Redigan spoke to waiters who worked downtown, and she heard a common refrain: “If they can’t pay their bills, too bad.” Instead of relying on the common decency of their fellow citizens to offer solidarity, it was the United Nations who had to issue a declaration on the shutoffs. “This is what it’s come to: appealing to an international body to uphold the basic human right to water,” Redigan wrote.

In an essay that went viral in 2013, Virginia Commonwealth University sociology professor Tressie McMillan Cottom argued that behind all of these cases isn’t just a hatred for poor people but a need to separate them from ourselves. When two Barneys customers were racially profiled that year while purchasing expensive luxury goods, it was easy to tsk-tsk not just at structural racism but at their own decisions. On Twitter, New York journalist Errol Louis tweeted: “#SFMH over a not-filthy-rich-person spending $2500 on a handbag.”

In response to his tweet, McMillan Cottom writes, “At the heart of [such] incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars.”

It’s easy to “expose” the poor for their own failures and much harder to look behind that mask to see the person gasping for breath inside it. Why would someone living in poverty want to go to the movies or a theme park? For the same reasons that everyone else does: to enjoy a momentary escape from real life. However, Kansas and Arkansas seem to serve the same purpose of Sarah Jane’s assailant, reminding her that no matter how far she runs, she can’t run far enough. Sarah Jane spends her entire childhood trying to be someone else, the kind of person who would have, in fact, starred in a movie with Ronald Reagan.

But eventually, we all have to grow up and see things for the way they are. If life forces you to walk in the road, someday you have to ask why.
Post-Katrina New Orleans is a kicking-the-poors boomtown.  We judge their grocery selections. We clear them out from under our overpasses and tourist right of ways. All of which is precisely why no one with any political power will ever give much of a shit that the rent is too damn high. If you can't keep up, it's obviously your fault.

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