Monday, July 19, 2010

Why We Hate The Poor, Part I


A lot of things go into determining what I write about on any given day. Often times, as may be obvious, I find something interesting written by a journalist or a blogger and try to comment and expand upon it. At other times, I may have a conversation or come across an idea in my everyday interactions that spark an interest. Sometimes, it's a combination of things.

This weekend, I was out with a friend who recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work and our conversation turned to the provision of social services in our country, especially when states are feeling the harsh effects of the recession and are in financial ruin (especially our own State of Illinois). I noted that social services, in general, have always seemed to me to be a direct counter to the argument that the free market is best equipped to deal with any situation. I don't see a lot of venture capitalists jumping at the chance to offer HIV/AIDS treatment to the urban poor or to quell rising unemployment rates in Appalachia.

The next day, while sitting down to write my first post of the week, I came across this piece by Saul Friedman discussing the War on Poverty and its silent, but sure, demise. While looking at the history of poverty-killing measures throughout the last 50 odd years, I was reminded of my conversation with my friend and thought it worth discussing.

For the past year or so, I've sat on the Board of a street magazine in Chicago that helps homeless and near homeless individuals get their lives back together through direct sales. The vendors, many of whom have proven themselves to be hardworking and dedicated people with rocky pasts, buy the magazine from the organization and sell it at a profit. In addition to offering this "hand-up" approach to fighting homelessness, the organization has also recently embarked on an expansion, of sorts, through partnerships with other projects to offer job-skills training, housing assistance and other necessities to vendors who want to better their situation.

Through my work with this organization, I've learned a lot more about urban poverty issues, the struggles that the poor deal with and the stereotypes others have about them. Quite simply, I've learned that, as a whole, we kind of hate the poor. Mr. Friedman's delve into the history of the War on Poverty, as well as numerous other indicators, which I'll discuss more in Part II of this series, have brought me to this conclusion. However, there is also hope in this situation and ways to reinvigorate our War on Poverty (both through governmental and local organizational approaches) which I'll discuss in Part III. For now, please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on the current state of poverty in America and where we can go from here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hate the poor. Perhaps hate is not the correct term. I believe most people are completely apathetic toward the poor among us. We look away when we see a person asleep on the street maybe because we don't understand how someone got there. We tolerate their presence because it is not something that can be fixed with batteries, a new sd card or cable. It would require something of us.