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Monday, July 10, 2017

What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like? - The New York Times. This article is essential reading. Poverty has been turned into a caste based shaming through "dog whistle" politics misleading most American in the who are the poor and the reasons for poverty and the need food stamps.

"... The truth is there was a shameful idea woven into my conceit of self-reliance, something so ingrained in American culture I’d never thought to say it out loud: I didn’t really think I was supposed to get food stamps because I was white.

Having an implicit belief that poverty didn’t really happen to white people did me more harm than good, and nearly prevented me from seeking help I needed. It also ignored reality. While it’s true that blacks and latinos disproportionately live in poverty, if you analyze who gets food stamps, they are most likely to be white.

The year I applied for SNAP, for example, whites were the largest racial group on food stamps and of the poor. As a reporter, I knew this, just as I’d known plenty of poor whites growing up. But when I considered SNAP for myself, I felt keenly that it was not for “people like me.” The unspoken corollary was that poverty was normal for everyone else.

I want to be clear: These passive assumptions were racist and classist. I am embarrassed to have made them. The qualification for being poor is not race or education, but an insurmountable gap between income and cost of living. But those assumptions, which I think are commonplace, say a lot about who we think is really poor.

The best proxy for who we believe is poor is what we see in media. And media professionals tend to portray poverty as if it is rare for anyone but black Americans. In one assessment of three American news magazines between 1950 and 1992, African-Americans were used as subjects in stories about poverty 53 percent of the time, while constituting just 29 percent of the nation’s poor. Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton and one of the study’s authors, told me that those articles tended to focus on welfare and other “unsympathetic” frameworks that can suggest poverty is caused by personal choice.

Poor whites, meanwhile, mostly showed up in stories about hunger and old age — poverty often considered blameless — and in fewer than half of stories on poverty, far below their share of the poor. Two later studies found that poverty among Asian- and Hispanic-Americans was consistently underreported, too. The only periods where the proportion of white poverty was accurately represented were economic downturns, when there is more sympathy for the poor, said Professor Gilens. And while those divides have softened today, said Rosalee Clawson, a Purdue political scientist updating the data through 2017, stories of the working poor “always” depict white subjects....

What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like? - The New York Times

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