Posts Tagged ‘Underclass’

Police killings and no-account black people

May 8, 2015

Conservatives such as David Brooks claim that the real problem of poor black people in cities such as Baltimore is not poverty, unemployment or police abuse, but bad moral character.

Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray

It is too bad that Freddie Gray died in custody of Baltimore police, but he would have been a loser no matter what, Brooks argued in a recent New York Times column.

Now it is true that there are Americans who are so completely demoralized that they couldn’t thrive even in a high-wage, full-employment economy.  I don’t know how many such people there are.  The way to find out is to create a high-wage, full-employment economy and see what happens.

My concern is with the obstacles faced by poor people who are doing everything humanly possible to get out of poverty.

I’m thinking of people who work full-time at minimum wage, some at multiple jobs, and still are in poverty.  I’m thinking of working people who don’t get paid sick days, can’t afford child care and have no transportation to work.

Not all are black and not all are in big cities, although black people in poor city neighborhoods are targets of abuse by virtue of living where they do.


“Honey Boo Boo” and the underclass

September 26, 2012

I never heard of the reality TV show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” until I came happened to come across a mention by Rod Dreher, a blogger who lives in small-town Louisiana and writes for The American Conservative magazine.

The show is about a dysfunctional white family who in Georgia.  The matriarch, Mama June, is 33 years old and has four daughters out of wedlock by four different men, three of them convicted felons and one unknown.  She has been in the welfare system all her life.

Mama June is not an evil person.  She evidently loves her children and cares for them as best she can, but she doesn’t know how.  She doesn’t give her children a healthy diet.  She doesn’t teach them anything about how to function in the larger society because she doesn’t know herself.  Her youngest daughter, seven-year-old Honey Boo Boo, is a child beauty contest competitor.  Her oldest, 17-year-old Chickadee, herself has a baby daughter out of wedlock.  I hate to think where Mama June’s daughters will be 15 or 20 years from now.

The so-called Learning Channel holds up this happy-go-lucky, hopeless family as a source of amusement, and maybe as an alternative lifestyle.  Dreher is appalled, and so am I.  But I found through a Google search that the show has a wide following, and there are critics who defend Mama June’s lifestyle against the middle-class values of people like Dreher and me.

I would never say that such people are typical of Southern white people in general, any more than their black counterparts are typical of African-Americans in general.   And I would never call Mama June’s family “rednecks.”  The word “redneck” originally was a word for Southern white farmers who worked all day in the hot sun in long-sleeved shirts—hardworking, churchgoing people at an opposite pole from the Honey Boo Boo family.

But I don’t have any good ideas as to what can be done on a societal level to change the way people choose to live.   The only force that is capable of really changing people is religion.

Click on Honey Boo Boo Nation for Rod Dreher’s complete post, which is well worth reading, and a good discussion thread.

Click on Things I Learned from My Foster Children for thoughts on the perspective on work of children from chronically poor families.