The airways have taken on a different kind of assault on the poor. Now, it is becoming as it seems, Ok, to bash the poor about everything from being takers, consumers, baby makers, stupid, lazy, and now fat on purpose under the guise of “shaming” them into changing his or her lifestyle, their eating habits and the poor, once again, lack rebuttal.
It is not uncommon for those with means to attribute their good will on a commitment to work or an ethic of sacrifice and sound judgment and not privilege, or favor or a support system that caught them when they made a mistake.
We all want the poor to reach for more and gain self-sufficiency. No one wants it more than they do. Here’s the odd consideration out, it is not that simple. There is layer, upon layer, upon layers of unspoken protocols that are learned not as a member of the poverty clan, but the privileged ones. The tight rope walked between a job or not, could be as simple as a name.
Harvard University conducted a random study called “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamaal? Fictitious names were randomly used on resumes to see if there was any correlation between employment opportunities and a person’s name who sounds white or African American. Ads were placed in newspapers in Chicago and Boston. The study concluded that there was a huge difference in call backs from the applications. Names that were more American sounding were called back significantly more often than African American sounding names. It was clear that labor market choices for hiring had significant bearing on the name of the applicant; another unwritten rule that the privilege takes for granted.
All of this is being said to naysayers of the poor, before you conclude your remarks toward them, consider a deeper meditation as to why their lives are not as productive as you would like for them to be. The layers of labor force dynamics that the poor are up against, the strictly unwritten rules of success that coexist with those that are, influence is far reaching. Such barriers, which are considerable, are tools used to bully. A child has no control over the name given them at birth. So, why should they be denied economic opportunity because of a name alone? Keep in mind the Harvard study simply randomly changed the name on the application.
Parents chose names for their kids oftentimes not understanding the dynamics of that choice. They exercise this right as a parent and as a member of this democracy. An agreement on the choice of a name is solely their right. If they understood the long-term impact of a “name,” possibly they would give more consideration before making the final decision. Either way, it is wrong to make such a judgment on a name alone.
Then there are family dynamics, geography, culture and a host of other very complex systems that all have to work together to bring one amazing God created being into a place where their gifts and talents are realized and exercised. Bashing- making fun of the poor, only plummets their esteem to such levels that it becomes easier to accept their poverty and live up to the accusations scripted and posted in the media with no means for rebuttal. Why fight it- if they think I am a dead beat, no good, then I’ll be it?
This is no way to treat any human being no matter what your intent is. Disparaging remarks are just that…belittling, discouraging communicating someone to be worthless, inferior and undeserving of respect. There are ways to communicate frustration without tasteless posturing because it is a form of bullying. Bullying is basic. It is taken advantage of personal power and influence and places an unreasonable demand on someone who has little means of defending themselves. Such mistreatment has no place in any civil society. The query for civility is now?
The energy used to debase another human can be better used. The issues that crowd the poor are surmountable. A bipartisan decision to end poverty rest on a fundamental belief that all people are given incredible abilities that a community, this nation needs and must have. And the absence of their gifts robs this nation and the communities in which they live. Exchanging name-calling and finger pointing for real on the ground action that does not enable the poor to remain poor, but challenges them to be their best is what must happen. This does not occur in a vacuum, but with all hands-on deck with the appropriate resources and a realistic plan to move them from poverty to self-sufficiency.