Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eliminating the Poor-bashing around us

It was about five years ago that the CBC reported that forty percent of the world’s wealth was owned by one percent of the world’s population.  There has been an ever increasing gap between the wealthy, and the common-day worker, as the occupy movement so overtly showed.  It has been claimed that the wealthiest in North America are so out of touch that they needed to go undercover and perform work expectation tasks (that they usually cannot complete in adequate time) in a reality show called “Undercover Boss”.  This show is meant to encourage the boss to feel sympathy for the lowly worker.  However, Jean Swanson, an anti-poverty activist, would argue that this is a form of poor-bashing.

What is poor-bashing? Great question!  According to Swanson, in her book Poor-Bashing: ThePolitics of Exclusion, she argues that poor bashing is ignoring facts about poverty and repeating stereotypes of the poor. It is assuming that the rich are entitled while the poor must do without.  Poor-bashing is ignoring people who are poor that express their needs.  It is having programs designed, by other people (usually wealthy), to help the poor – that don’t work. It is thinking that poor people are dirty and worthless to not even have a cup with. And the list could go on.

Now, just how does Undercover Boss poor-bash? In several ways! Who is speaking in these shows? The boss; it is his (usually male) perspective, it is his interpretation, it is told from his high-rise vantage point. Is it based on false assumptions? Absolutely! The assumption that the poor commoner cannot support themselves, so in comes the savior, the undercover boss, with a reward to save you! And the reward is sometimes so off base.  Think of it, the worker is usually struggling to make ends meet, or they have a sick family member, or they are trying to go to school to increase their earning potential. And what are they given? A BRAND NEW CAR! That you have to pay more insurance on than your previous vehicle, it needs more gas to be pumped into it, and so on.

So as parents, educators, or whomever we have a chance to make an impression, how can we start eliminating poor-bashing? There are four things that Swanson recommends:

First, when donating or helping someone do not lift yourself up and think you are better than they.

Second, do not let corporations use you for their image and benefit.

Third, set criteria’s for the charities that you volunteer/work for or donate to.  Ensure that they meet the 
needs of the people they serve and that they include the people they serve in the decision making process.

Lastly, don’t let charity replace justice. For example, instead of just donating food to the local food-bank also take the time to write a letter to local government officials to challenge poor-bashing.

As we start uncovering poor-bashing we realize how it is all-around us and it is up to us to start eliminating it.

Written by:

Josh Lockhart Locking Hearts Together

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