Monday, March 16, 2009

The Real Book on Poverty

Increasingly the people falling into the ranks of the poor are those who previously were classified as 'middle class'. In what I believe to be a type of individualistic protectionist posture, many still wish to stereotype those who are poor as being those who 'choose' not to make it.

Even in this recession, the fact that unemployment among African-Americans is nearly double that of whites (at 13.4%), is confirmation for some that this is not an issue of the economy as much as it is an issue of 'will' and determination.

Barbara Ehernriech, whose book "Nickle and Dimed", really warned of the danger of income inequality in our nation. In an effort to simulate the plight of middle class/working class Americans, she took low wage to middle income employment to show how difficult it was, not just to get ahead, but simply to make ends meet.

Adam Shepherd, young college graduate, challenged the premise of Ehrenriech's book with a simulated study of his own. He published a book based on his own experience, "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25 and the Search for the American Dream". Shepherd takes $25, a relatively low wage job and graduates to a used truck and an apartment.

In his interview with John Stossel on ABC's 20/20, he touts his frugality and the sacrifices he made in order to find the level of success he made. He points to Ehrenriech's 'extravagances' ("she bought $40 pants", he said).

I actually think that what both of these books point to are the limits of simulated exercises! While somewhat effective, lessons learned depend entirely on the objective.
Give me the real life experiences of people whose lives are being ruined by our country's drift into corporate greed and the creation of a culture of materialism. Like this one, being replicated countless times throughout our country today...

While I respect the work of Ms. Ehrenriech and Mr. Shepherd, no one in these tents intends to write a book...


Anonymous said...

The Mexicans don't seem to have a problem finding work!
The blog comment deserves a response "Even in this recession, the fact that unemployment among African-Americans is nearly double that of whites (at 13.4%)."
The reason for the last statement is a percentage of their color, more blacks don't work!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:31,

Yeah, I read this the first time you posted it.

I think you missed about eight years where this type of simplistic reasoning was actually in vogue...

Anonymous said...

Well Reverend ( and I assume you are a Rev. in the same fashion as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton), I am sorry that this poor and ignorant counntry boy can't match wits with you.

The continued merchandising of race and poverty by you (poverty and race merchant as it were), seems to be your main focus. How much do you profit from the merchandising?

Gerald Britt said...

First let me say that you're reacting to an Anonymous post, not mine. I've got no problem standing behind anything I have to say.

Secondly, I want you to know that you can go to, and see what our work is all about.

I happen to supervise the work that provides training for living wage jobs, our work that provides education and enrichment in extended day programs and college readiness programs for youth, our program for youth who age out of foster care, our public interest law firm, as well as our permanent supportive housing program for the disabled and chronically homeless. Those along with advocacy for the poor consitute the scope of my work along with a few other things.

To be honest, I don't have an opportunity to do this work because of the poor or minorities. I have this position because of those the thoughtless, uncharitable and unkind people in our community who refuse to recognize that their destiny is intrinsically tied to those who are marginalized in our society. Those who find it easy to deflect in the face of those whose lives have been impoverished - sometimes because of poor personal choices, but more often than not, because of the racism,greed, materialism and selfishness associated with systems that tend to erect barriers to the prospects of their living lives with dignity.

There are far too many of us who fail to understand, or refuse to admit that their personal experiences of 'success' are not universally transferable principles. So that the 'boot straps' by which they claim to have pulled themselves up are not available to others.

Its way too easy to make the choice to make one's opinions absolute and refuse to be blinded and confused by inconvenient facts. People like that, really the ones who keep me employed.

By the way. I know it was intended to be an insult, but I appreciate you placing me in the ranks of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are heroes of mine - and the fact that you've chosen to only be aggravated by them and listen selectively to whatever points they make that illicit your guilt or anger, doesn't erase or detract from the good they've done.

Anonymous said...

Two things Your Honor
1. The information on the website you referred to is 2 years old! Therefore it lends no credence to your defense.
2. You and the other Poverty Merchant at your "ministry" have connections with some "legal aid" attorneys and I just wonder how many of the homeless need legal assistance? Looks to me like this is a wonderful "Jesse Jackson" opportunity (if you get my drift)