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What is The True Face of Poverty?

Here is the plight of people who are born into poverty.

They are raised in the poorest section of their community. The poorest section of their community is subjected to more violence and crime. The schools in the poorest section of the community get the least funding of all the schools. The schools in the poorest section of the community have the highest turnover rate for teachers. 

Many kids in poverty are raised in foster homes or by a relative who is not their parent. There are good foster homes and bad ones, of course. Just like regular homes. 

It is not uncommon for a child in poverty to be exposed to addiction early on in their lives. Whether it be their parents or otherwise. With all of this going on in the children’s lives, they much of the time do poorly in school, they act out, they have problems controlling their anger, etc.

Then there’s the problem of food. Did you know that poor children are more likely to be obese? This is because buying junk food is often cheaper than buying whole foods. And, by the way, poor communities are less likely to have a grocery store with fresh food. 

Poor children are less likely to have reliable transportation because they’re, uh, poor. Many cities do not have good public transportation and a requirement for having a job (any job) is to “have reliable transportation.” Therefore, these kids can’t get afterschool jobs as they grow up.

Poor kids are also more likely to be abused physically and sexually. They’re more likely to join gangs. They’re more likely to die sooner. They’re more likely to have mental health problems. They’re more likely to have behavioral issues. They’re more likely to end up in jail right as they turn of age. They’re more likely to die by suicide. They’re more likely to be addicted to drugs or other substances. They’re more likely to have a mere 8th grade reading level by the time they graduate high school. 

But THEN, after this snowball of tragedy that has plagued their lives, we tell these former poor kids when they finally become adults to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop being lazy.” 

And if I could scream this from the rooftops I would in response: THEY ALREADY HAVE. They’re ALIVE! They SURVIVED! They have gone through more than you or I could ever dream and they’re still here. With eyes wide open. 

But we drive our knives into their wounds because they are no longer cute kids with sad stories. They’re adults now. And they aren’t so cute. In fact, a lot of them are angry. A lot of them are in jail. A lot of them are on SNAP (God forbid). A lot of them have problems because they finally cracked under the weight of the terrible cards they were dealt. 

And this is the real face of poverty. It isn’t the poor child with a dirty face begging for food on the street. It’s the child who grew up, who never got the help they needed when they were a kid. Now they’re an adult and our sympathy has run out. 

Our sympathy has run out; because it’s easier to have pity on a poor child than it is to have compassion for a single mother with four kids who’s on SNAP and the welfare program. It’s easier to have pity on a poor child than the man in jail for theft.

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Dr. Martin Luther King

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