Socio-economic status a protected class?

Posted on The Progressive Review- January 19, 2009

With the economy the way it is and the middle class sinking down into the ranks of the working class and the working class becoming either poor or poor and homeless, I see the class lines being drawn ever more sharply.  I see actual fences going up around previously friendly landowners and actual gated communities like the feudal times of yore.  It’s only a matter of time before every body gets their scapegoating focus off of the “illegal” immigrants and puts the blaring spot light back onto those subversive welfare mothers and other poor, white people.  For me, I am well spoken yet I am poor.  A part of me thinks even if, one day, my brilliance actually gets recognized and I earn money for my talents, that I will still want to identify with the very core of myself that self-identifies as poor.  For one thing, I’m on social security.  Rumors of Obama politics taking away the already shredded safety net from those of us who are barely out of the shark infested water as it is, are chilling and foreboding.  For another, why should I have to give up my identity to finally become valid and “legitimate” just because I will eventually have achieved an education and all the accolades it bestows?  Why can’t the rest of my family and friends who were born poor, live poor and probably gonna die poor, be any less valid or “legitimate” than they are right now, just being who they are?  I see no difference between all these programs supposedly designed to get people out of poverty and the previous generation’s assimilation programs directed at making black people act white or “civilizing” Indians.  I’m not saying take away the safety net, I’m saying, stop trying to drag us out of the water.  You’re just not strong enough and every time we get a little bit out,  one of ya drops us and we fall back deeper than we were before.  Besides, there just isn’t room enough for everyone on dry land.  You don’t really want us there.  It just makes some of you feel better knowing that these programs are “out there” so you can blame the poor when the programs don’t work and the money mostly goes to the administrators of the government and “non-profits” of the poverty industry.

Have I made my point?  I’m tired of getting pulled over for “driving while poor” and having all kinds of ridiculous accusations thrown at me that they would NEVER say to me if I were driving a Lexus and had my nails done.  I’m tired of landlords that completely violate my tenant rights because they can and nobody will give a damn if I complain, it will just get me evicted.  I’m tired of working low-wage jobs for long hours and when I can’t stand any more and go sit down a minute I get put “on call” forever.  Or how about those college professors, the less enlightened ones, who misinterpret my chronic lateness and occasional absence as “irresponsibility” when it’s not me, it’s the stupid bus.  And those bus drivers!  The things they say to us, because they can.  Or doctors who drop entire classes of people from their clientele because they all have one thing in common: state medicaid.  I’m tired of constantly worrying about how to pay the bills and buy food only to be humiliated at the store when I walk up to get a refund and she says, “let me guess.  you have no receipt and you bought it with cash…”  Or the looks I get when I pull out my food stamp card.  The judgments people think they have a right to make about what I eat are worse than being poor itself.  It’s not the poverty I mind so much, it’s the powerlessness.  Or, back to the police again, having my license plate run “at random” and getting pulled over because I missed a payment on my car insurance so they take my car, ticket me, and leave me crying on the sidewalk alone at 10 o’clock at night.  Or, as one young deputy thought, of a police officer actually coming into my apartment and sexually propositioning me because he assumed that because I was a welfare mother I was easy.  I have so  many anecdotes about the police that I think that is where it should begin.  They are the primary perpetrators of socioeconomic class social profiling.  I hated it when I read about it in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and I hate it when it’s me and my family now. 

If a black man can be president, can a white woman get a little justice? 

I wish the ACLU cared more about the poor.  I know they do legal work on behalf of the homeless and I’m grateful but I wish they would really go after social justice in a serious way about the rights of the poor to be free of government intrusion and biased, baseless scrutiny. 

Are you with me?


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