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How Did This Happen?

How Did This Happen?

To really understand my question, there’s a few things you need to know about me.

I was born into a white middle class family. We didn’t have a lot, but we always had enough. It was never a question that I would go to college, get married, have my 2.5 kids, and I would never be dependant on anyone but myself for the food I ate, the roof over my head, and the clothes on my back. I did go to college. Graduated with a BA in Psychology and had plans to get my PsyD. I was married to an amazing man that I planned to spend the rest of my life with, and we paid all of our bills with some left over for trips once in a while. I was living the middle class dream!

Fast forward to me at 29. Suddenly, I found none of the things that I had known to be true were. My husband left me, my doctors told me I was disabled, and I was now going to be dependant on SSDI, food stamps (which aren’t stamps anymore, they are a card, and they are now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program… SNAP for short), and “Section 8” (federally funded housing assistance). I became a public and personal embarrassment.

Which brings me to my question. How did this happen? How did we as a society get to the point where simply being poor made you an embarrassment? Worse if you’re a person of color, then you’re a criminal. JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE POOR! My story isn’t unique, nor is it the only way people end up living on the edge of society. We get here a million different ways on a million different days and all of us are looked at as the leeches of the “hard working middle class.” No one brings up the billionaires of the world though. They earned every penny all by themselves. Just ask them they’ll tell you… but that’s another story for another time.

I’m luckier than many of my neighbors. I’m well educated, white with the whitest white name on the books, I don’t have kids, because of my education I’m very articulate (this helps when the people in power try to convince me I’m not allowed to whatever because I’m poor), and my disabilities created a situation where I get help just because I exist. That isn’t true for many of my able bodied, single parent, people of color neighbors. Many of them dealing with generations of abuse, and social neglect.

So why do I bring all of this up? I realized in this most recent presidential election that most of the people I know have no idea that being poor doesn’t negate your personhood. They really believe that people who are poor don’t deserve things like a living minimum wage, clean and safe housing, education, protection from harm, or even things as simple as joy and beauty. They really believe that the poor got poor because they are lazy, or because they deserve to be poor (I of course am the exception because I’m their friend). But suddenly, they are finding their lives in danger from the billionaires we never talk about. They are scared. They are marching and calling and writing to protect the rights the poor have been fighting for over generations.

Welcome to the party people of privilege. We’ve been waiting for you to get here. Now that you are, take a look around and ask yourself honestly, How did this happen?

About The Author


  1. Acadia Einstein

    Well now that I know all this you are gonna get double the salary! And I think if a person’s self-worth is wrapped up in the notion that they deserve what they have, then it would logically follow that other people have what they deserve.

    Also, people who are winning don’t want to think the game might be rigged, you know? And even people who demonstrably are NOT winning sometimes want to blame the players, not the game.

  2. lonebannanadotcom

    Obviously billionaires are rich because of hard work.

    Not their own, of course. Duh.

    Also, this great country, MurKa, the land of opportunity…

    Cuz how else u gonna get someone else to do all your work for minimum wage and no benefits, all while probably getting a nice tax break?

    Murka, where if a citizen work hard and honest for someone else, maybe their great grandkids can be born out of poverty.

    Probs not, though.

  3. Cider

    All of the above. There’s actually been at least one study showing that the more money you give a person, even in a fake situation like monopoly money or plastic chips, they more they think they deserve it. The rich get richer AND also think THEY DESERVE TO BE RICH MORE, the more money they have. So naturally they think people who don’t have money must deserve to not have it for some reason.

    Human beings need to try harder at life and not judging others.

  4. Sparks

    I’m not going to restate the truth and wisdom of the commenters above me. Instead I will focus on a statement you made:

    “How did we as a society get to the point where simply being poor made you an embarrassment?”

    The answer is simple: you’re not an embarrassment and neither is any poor person. Yes, America has roots in rugged individualism and a (false) belief that all it takes to succeed is perseverance and hard work. This leads to an ancillary conviction that being poor is your fault and you just didn’t try hard enough.

    But that’s not my point.

    My point is this: you never control the factors that influence you. As you know, you can’t even control your own body. You, more than most understand this. Me, as a cancer survivor, also have an inkling as you do.

    All you control is how you react to the things that are out of your control.

    So finally, this means you are NOT an embarrassment unless you allow the words and opinions of others allow you to believe that you are.

    You are beautiful. And you have a beautiful dignity that no one can ever take away from you. You have to give it away. So don’t. The embarrassment is them for devalue human life.

    And fuck em. Give them a day in your shoes and see what they say tomorrow.

  5. Catherine Morgan

    I love you guys. Thank you for all of the support.


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