Five myths about the poor

There is an article a friend posted on Facebook that highlights five myths about the poor, and boy are they true.  I see this in my work, with my clients, and the research I read. The article mentioned these myths and explained and gave proof for them, so I won’t do that here, but I am adding my own thoughts given my own experience and observations.

1. The Bootstrap Myth.  You know. The one that “anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstrap if they work hard enough.”  A lot of the poor people I know work very hard.  They work two and three jobs hard. While raising kids hard. That’s insulting to most adults.

2. The Poor are Unemployed. See above – poor people working two and three jobs.

3. Poor Equals Black – Is this racist? Is it classist? Is it both? Sometimes, I think this belief is used to shroud classist actions in racist terms.  Not that I mean to diminish the racism of today, but we can’t fight a demon we don’t know or don’t believe in.

4. The Poor Refuse to Work – This is a play on the welfare queen.  I have been working with homeless people for six years.  People who look like the welfare queen exist, and welfare king.  Those same people don’t have social supports and are mocked by those around them for asking questions. Those people are veterans who are still uncomfortable being indoors. They don’t know they don’t have to give a man sex, many of them have been hurt when they try not to. They don’t know

Interestingly, now that I think about the people that would be welfare queens and kings, the ones who really do not want to work traditional jobs or take part in traditional society, the ones people would call lazy and entitled, are actually neither of those.  They aren’t on welfare.  There are camps of people who travel from shelter to shelter, (so that could be called welfare) but spend a lot of time sleeping outside.  They keep to themselves; they give nothing, they ask for nothing. They truly don’t want to be involved with society.

The ones who act lazy and entitled are the ones with addiction, learning or developmental disability, mental illness, and a history of trauma and other emotional distress.

5. Education automatically remedies poverty. I think recent graduate experience is showing the lie of this.  Those with college degrees, advanced and professional degrees are earning less than they used to.

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