The Wrong Kind of Poor
The Working Poor and the System That Despises Them
The inability for large portions of the developed world’s populations to understand the actuality of those living in poverty having nothing or no one to help them, had once appeared to me to be a defect of privileged circumstance. The past ten years has changed the sympathetic opinion once held for the practically ignorant, to the conclusion they are willfully arrogant. It isn’t ignorance of the realities in poverty that fuels the societal idiot to make asinine proclamations such as, “If they don't want to be poor, why don’t they get better jobs?” It is narcissism that pollutes and avoids serious conversation. The statement (almost) always comes from someone who was fully supported by their parents until the end of adolescence, then presented with a high paying job right out of college due to various connections and recommendations that have no concern with ability. While these overgrown toddlers continue to dominate the highest paying jobs, it is my experience they are the least problematic people affecting the upward mobility of the working class and poor.
This is not to say that there aren’t those living in poverty in the US that wouldn't look forward to the opportunity for betterment, and are content living in the meager comfort of the diagnosis of perpetual hardship. However, for those who wish to move upward and outward of the checkbox on the assistance form, those opportunities do not exist, unless you are the “right kind of poor.” The destitute beggar, the minority single mother with no education, the middle class junkie, the third world economic refugee, and anyone else who is willing to allow themselves to be shamed with patronized speech while being beholden for the incredible triumph of the organization to be the facilitator in bestowing donated funds. Administering the smallest pieces of endowments meant to help people based on income but instead awarded to whom the case manager personally believes deserve it, making their job appear more meaningful, and serve as an act of contrition for how they really feel about those outside their social group. They feign reluctance to mention their merciful action with gratuitous selfies and uninspired quotes, copied and pasted with the same intendence as their work day.
I do not come by this opinion based on any prejudice, quite the opposite. Having been on both sides of these organizations, I can say with assuredness that though it sounds absurd it is nonetheless true. A person doesn't necessarily end up the “right kind of poor” but are instead living in the result of bad economy, bad relations and uncontrollable circumstance. And though my income was considerably lower and education further advanced than many of the deserving poor, It didn't stop caseworkers and directors turning me away from programs that could have helped me out of the situation i had found myself in and continue to try and climb out of. I was given the opportunity to receive WIC, EBT and healthcare for my son and these programs have been of significant benefit in sustaining my low income status. However, the programs that could actually pull a person like myself out of poverty, are not available to me based on nothing more than the fact I do not come from a deserving identity in the eyes of those who smile and laugh as I'd walk away angered with no recourse to prove I and women like myself are being discriminated against for not being properly deserving.
To quote a case worker (whose nails were no doubt longer than her reading list) who refused to allow me to apply for a program to help me buy a car, “These programs ain't meant for white girls like you.” Being 31 at the time, I suppose I could have taken being called a “girl” as a positive aspect of a thoughtless statement backed by the establishment where this protocol is most definitely discussed without fear of its revelation. Numerous visits to the local career center where three different case workers couldn't manage to find employment for me, even when I was providing them with the posted job numbers, a resume, and requiring only their official submission, which though it was the central function of their position, they still found challenging to accomplish. After six uneventful months with the career center, a coordinator admitted to me that my education and experience was working against me. Their goal was to place under-qualified people in positions so that they could learn, grow and achieve, no matter how many times that practice had failed. She apologized to me for the mistreatment, supplied me with the codes to apply for positions on my own and remarked, “This really isn't a place for a person like you. You'll have more luck on your own.” If that were the case I surely would not have put myself through the aggravation of the process, but because I refused to be the “right kind of poor,” my options for patronage set up to help people from my income demographic, were again denied to me.
As absurd as this sounds, it is true. There are no lack of well-funded social programs that exist to help to keep a person in the poverty they find themselves. The directors, case managers and social workers are guided by their political executives to make decisions that create a profile of services that sustain the problem but never work towards solving it. How can these social programs be properly administered when the incentive is job security, meaningless promotions and a public image filled with congratulatory galas, dinners and award ceremonies that have a catering budget that far exceeds what it would take to lift a family of two out of poverty? The intention is disconnected from helping impoverished demographics with a more traditional focus on feeding cash cows who try to appear as sacrificial lambs.
The Executive directors and CEO’s of these organizations take great pride in talking about the huge financial sacrifice they are making, having chosen to work with the pathetic and mostly undeserving poor and needy. Forgetting to mention that on top of their meager $400K salary, with allotments, perks and an annual bonus, that they usually have a pretty comfortable family inheritance to look forward to. The champagne socialist has made way for the white wine supremacist and unlike their predecessors, the white wine supremacists do not have a calling to balance the scales of inequality. Theirs is a demand for gratification with the same thoughtless pleasure seeking of an overly aroused stray cat. This has been the environment of the welfare and non profit organization system for decades whether I observed it from the comfortable administrative office chair or the waiting room wooden bench.
Malice masked as benevolence and reward for their false dedication and self serving motivation is expected, is in no fear of extinction and seems to be breeding at an alarming rate. Yet, the people exploited by this fraudulent compassion remain in poverty and if they are not appropriately thankful for the lack of opportunity, constant misrepresentation and are unwilling to repent for being poor, are considered ungrateful.
The very method used in employing the hierarchy of the non profit social program industry is as ancient as it is nepotistic. One need only read the work of Dickens to see its corruption poised in a factual way and be sure that though the institutions may look cleaner than the cold, dank workhouses, the same filth exists beyond the pages of literary history. Position is not contingent on competence and skill, but on social or familial relations and basic certifications that are easily achieved with fatuous memorization and useless regurgitation. That could be why I have yet to see any humanity within the working walls of these human service organizations.
Public image is far more important to these fallacious hominids than the public themselves.
They care only for the plaques, conferences and a congratulatory pat, for the pain they suffer having to lower themselves dealing with poor people. I would testify they are far more fiendish than any corporate executive I have come across. Corporations celebrate capitalism, they aren't disingenuously opposed to it while practicing it. Sure there are condescending and presumptuous people who exist in every industry, and social media can provide you with plenty of examples. But in my experience, there is no greater centralized collection of self-applauding, deplorables who feed off the misery of others than in the nonprofit world.
My experiences are a norm you’ll certainly not hear about because it speaks to a much bigger problem and the responsibility is attached to recognizable names that have never known the sting of accountability. I have only my word, free of trappings of wealth and mediocrity to censor the revelation of my many experiences. I do implore you, if you think that my portrayal is inaccurate or motivated by some portentous declaration, to ask yourself;
“Would you rather suffer the company of Mr. Bumble or Fagin?”