On Economic Bias
I have experienced times where my economic status left something to be desired. I have been on food stamps, welfare, gone to the food bank to feed my children, and gone to a local church to get warm clothes for my kids for winter. Yes, I did live a life at one time, it seems eons ago, where I was proud, maybe even arrogant, where I looked down on those who were dealing with hard times - like the homeless. But, as the old saying goes, pride comes before a fall.
I have learned humility over the years...
I have learned humility over the years, especially as I found myself in the very place of those I once looked down on and judged. It seems that Life has humbled me time and again, taking me through the twists and turns of difficulty and challenges. I have gained, though, a certain strength of character that can only come from experience and hard times.
What has repeatedly amazed me is the way some people feel they can treat me because I have come to them for help or they see me as someone ‘poor.' It seems that there is a distinct economic bias against those who are poverty stricken. Apparently, we are unable to comprehend what is told to us, we cannot think for ourselves, we are uneducated/stupid, and we are lazy. Well, I can assure you that I am none of those things.
I have been homeless; I have lived in poverty. Those circumstances, however, have nothing to do with my intelligence and they did not occur because I am lazy. In fact, I spent hours each day applying for jobs but they just never came through. I have a college education and great experience, but I am autistic. I don't interview well because of the social limitations that my autism creates. I can do the job and am very productive; I just can't get past the interview process to show what I can do.
And it has left me sitting on that other side of the desk, the side where others sat - the ones I once judged with the same attitude that many have. If they would just look for a job... If they would just try... If they just wouldn't squander their money... If they would stop relying on others to support them...
I was once that person...
I know the thoughts, the attitudes, because I once was that person. I saw people who were having financial difficulties as products of their own doing. I too held the belief that if they wanted a job bad enough, wanted to get out of their impoverished situation bad enough, that they would. I thought they were lazy, not interested in working, intellectually incapable of holding a job.
Then I wound up on the other side of the desk and my perspective changed. Then I understood how far reaching economic bias is.
I found out the hard way...
I found out the hard way just how it felt to be the one dealing with the judgmental attitudes. I once signed with an agency that provided free prescriptions to those who could not afford medication. I called the place to see how long it generally took to pick up a prescription that had already been called in to be refilled. I had been at doctor's appointments all day, since early morning. I was in poor health and had had several medical tests run. I was actually calling between appointments and was on my way to another appointment.
When I spoke to the woman on the phone I told her that I needed to get the medication as soon as possible and she told me, "Well, you knew that you had this appointment this afternoon, you should have gotten up and come by here this morning." I was taken aback at this insinuation that I had been lazing around or sleeping in all day. I felt compelled to explain to her that I had been at appointments all day, since early that morning, and this was my first opportunity to contact her. She still maintained her haughty manner.
It seems that when you must go to such an agency to get help they can treat you any way that they wish.
Another time I applied for food stamps in Louisiana. The worker talked down to me right from the beginning. I was polite and kind to her, but she called me the day after my case was approved to tell me that she went ahead and approved me even though I did not provide the information that she told me to provide. I told her that I had given her everything that she had put on the list and she told me I was a liar. I had the list in front of me and I told her that she had no right to call me a liar. She told me I should tell the truth.
An impoverished wallet is not indicative of an impoverished mind...
These are only two examples of how I have been treated as a person of a low financial status. However, an impoverished wallet is not indicative of an impoverished mind, values or feelings. Certain people seem to look down on those who have financial difficulty. If you are on food stamps to feed your children or need help with medication or bills or necessities, some people who work at these agencies seem to have a God complex. They display an attitude indicating they feel that just because they are not in such a position they are somehow superior to the person they are ‘helping.'
Then there are the people who don't work at the agencies, but see you using your food card in line at the grocery store. When I was a struggling mother of three with an abusive ex who did not pay child support I often was the recipient of such lovely comments as, "If you can' afford them you shouldn't have them" (referring to my three children who I had with the same husband and was still married when the third one was born) and "Get a job and stop bumming off of the system." Nice.
As the economy continues to tank and more people are finding themselves unemployed or underemployed, you will see more people struggling. I have been there. I have been laid off, struggled as a single mother to feed my children, lived in my vehicle because I could not come up with the money necessary to pay all of the fees and deposits for an apartment, I have worked but my salary was not enough to pay the bills and feed the kids. In the real world you can't always wrap someone's life in a neat little package, all cut and dry. There are circumstances and hardships. Things happen.
Thankfully, not all people are harsh and judgmental. There are those who truly want to help. You don't see pity on their faces. They don't treat you like a criminal - or a potential criminal. They treat you with respect and kindness regardless of your economic station.
I am your reality...
But to the others I have to ask: Do you think that we don't have any pride or feelings just because we are not as financially well off as you?
I would like to ask these people, what makes you so much better than me? Is it because you have a job? Is it because you don't have to worry where your children's next meal will come from or how they will be clothed?
Or do I make you think that someday it may be you in that chair on the other side of the desk.
It is something to think about, you know. One day you have it all and in a blink of an eye it can be taken from you. Then it will be you sitting there, while someone just like you talks down to you, treats you like you are not human, stupid, and have no value.
I choose not to respond when people treat me that way. I look past the rude, haughty exterior at someone who is intimidated and fearful. See, I represent reality, a reality that they don't want to face. I am the reality that it can happen to anyone at any time.