Working Class Ignorance

I went to a class today called Bridges Out of Poverty. I learned a heck of a lot and the presenter was amazing. I also was shocked, ashamed and embarrassed by people I work with and their ignorance. Their ignorance about poverty and what it looks like and how it can be perpetuated for generations. I work at the agency in NY who decides who gets disability benefits. I work with the people who make decisions on HEAP, SNAP and other similar programs and I am shocked, just shocked.

Now please understand I am not a holier than thou person and I freely admit before I was a foster parent I had a crap load of preconceived notions about what poverty is and how hard it really was to escape from it. But even with my own ignorant understanding of how it happens I had the good sense to know that I needed to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. The people in the class today, well not so much. Here is a real example

She showed a video of someone named Tammy, 4 kids, working minimum wage and talks about wanting to go to college. This person, I can’t even say co-worker I am so ashamed actually said out loud “Well if she would get off her butt and just go to college she could better herself instead of making excuses.” OK this person works for minimum wage, walks 10 miles to work and 10 miles home each day because of no car and you think she can just pick up and “go to college if she wants to” WTF!!!!!!

It gets worse. After the video we find out that the kid quit high school to work so he could support his family. She asked what we thought about that and after several moments of awkward silence I raised my hand and said “Well given the number of young men who do not step up to the plate and create a child and go. I am impressed that he is willing to stay and help care for the child he created. Yes life will be hard but at least he is not running like so many do.” OK another person said out loud “How can you be so stupid as to say that? He was stupid to leave school to care for a child now he won’t have anything at all.” When this person was confronted (by my co-worker) about her use of the negative word “stupid” she actually said “Well I would never say that to my clients but it is all right to think it.” and had no insight that her behavior would show her true thoughts.

I was floored at her lack of empathy, understanding and GROSS lack of insight as to how her thoughts would impact her interactions. I work with these people. They are educated. They are ignorant. They are out of touch. They are part of the reason why people don’t succeed. I didn’t even care that she had told me my thoughts were stupid because she was so out of touch I wondered how the heck she did her job at all. Seriously in this class I was telling myself “You don’t want to go to jail. Keep your mouth shut and DON’T smack her upside her freaking head.”

I was so saddened by their lack of empathy and caring. I could not even imagine being them for a day. So far removed and yet so very stupid in a lot of ways. No I am not happy I know poverty personally but you know what it taught me to be that much more grateful for all I do have.

Grrrr I know no fix for stupid…

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