Tormenting the poor

August 10th, 2009  |  Published in Uncategorized

Judah pointed me to Barbara Ehrenreich breaks it down in her NYTimes op-ed, Is It Now a Crime to be Poor?:

Maybe we can’t afford the measures that would begin to alleviate America’s growing poverty — affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation and so forth. I would argue otherwise, but for now I’d be content with a consensus that, if we can’t afford to truly help the poor, neither can we afford to go on tormenting them.

This is definitely something that Bloomington should keep in mind, and I suspect a lot of people who live in neighborhoods and communities that are confronting more visibly human faces of poverty.  Still, I’m not content with criticizing middle-class suburbanites|yuppies|city governments|business associations|police are whack for tormenting people experiencing poverty or trying to ignore it.   I feel like I’ve inherited, despite my best efforts, the cultural anxiety with poverty and I think we need to have a frank discussion about what scares us so much about poverty and poor people and how we can get over it.  One of the problems with intense efforts, over time, to racially and economically segregate our communities is that many of us in this country who grew up in those segregated places have no tools to accurately assess our real safety.  We just rely on the mythologies about the potential dangers that people who we perceive as different than us might pose.  I don’t think the antidote is to fetishize poverty either, but I hope there’s a way out.