Tag: lower class

Sympathy, Part Two

Picking up where I left off, in last week’s post I asked the following: Why should we feel sorry for the white working class?

Yes, that’s harsh, but we’re talking about a demographic that prides itself on straight talk and not being politically correct and so on and so on.

Of course, claims about being non-PC usually mean, “We like to talk shit about minorities, who better not say a damn thing back, and watch your mouth when you’re addressing white Christian America.”

In any case, the WWC, by almost any measure, is not doing particularly well.

sisyphus-image-01c

 

However, to be brutally honest about it, these people are white — still the majority in this country — and as such they enjoy the benefits of white privilege. They have more economic clout, more societal influence, and more cultural power (obvious in that we are constantly talking about how they feel and think and live).

At the very least, one cannot argue with the inherent contradiction that their anti-immigrant stance has created. Namely, the white working class prides itself on its deep roots in American society. They have been here for generations, with great-great-grandparents who came from the good countries (i.e., Europe). The WWC is not fresh off the boat.

OK, but here’s my question to them: With such an overpowering head start, why are you struggling so much? You’ve had generations to build up wealth and establish your families. Why are you still slaving away in coal mines? Isn’t that what your ancestors in Great Britain were trying to escape?

Taking this point further, how can a group of swarthy outsiders who don’t even speak English — and are supposedly lazy and stupid — be so thoroughly kicking your ass? What are you doing wrong?

“But they’re stealing our jobs!” the white working class screams.

First, this is not true, as many studies have shown. Second, even if it were true, perhaps the WWC should be annoyed at the corporations that are kicking them to the curb in favor of immigrants (and yes, voting Republican will surely show corporate America a thing or two). And third, if you’ll permit me to use a conservative talking point, that’s just an excuse.

You see, whenever someone tries to explain the cycle of poverty that engulfs many African American or Latino communities, a huge right-wing chorus rises up to dismiss the hard data and sociological theories and economic realities that show why poor communities stay impoverished.

Instead, we hear that all those blacks and Hispanics just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop whining.

I never — and I mean, never — hear this argument applied to the poor regions of Appalachia. Not once have I heard a politician tell laid-off blue-collar workers in white towns that they need to take responsibility for their decisions and stop blaming others.

Actually, I’ve heard the opposite, which is that the WWC should blame immigrants and nobody else.

In addition to this illogical, hypocritical, misplaced blame, there is often a powerful sense of entitlement — supposedly anathema to conservatives — that pervades the white working class. For example, there are members of the WWC who are “sick of hearing in job interviews” that certain positions require Spanish.

Now, as I’ve written before, learning Spanish is not some magical skill beyond the reach of mere mortals. My own fluency is marginal at best, but I can tell you it’s not difficult to learn the basics and, with some effort, become proficient.

But hostility toward a bilingual world is a chief way in which the WWC tries to flex its entitlement. After all, if a job calls for being an expert in Microsoft Word, or knowing how to fix a carburetor, or identifying the cortex after opening up the skull, or knowing whether to snip the blue wire or the red wire, we don’t stomp our feet and say, “But I speak English, and that should be good enough!”

No, we accept that those are the requirements for the position, and the skill sets of the past may no longer apply.

America, as we all know, is evolving rapidly. And the stubborn refusal to acknowledge this — the overt battling to prevent this evolution — is one reason the WWC is in such a messed-up situation.

So again I ask, why are we bending over backward to spare the feelings of poor white people?

Well, an immediate answer is this: Because we should. They are human beings and deserve the support of their nation and their countrymen.

And despite my harsh words in some of this article, I do feel sorry for the white working class (I’m just a bleeding heart that way).

They have indeed been screwed over by politicians, corporations, and a rigged societal structure. And I don’t believe it’s as easy as pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. All that is true.

I’m just asking why our cultural sympathies are so easily tapped into when it comes to the WWC. Why do we feel for a white person mired in the economic misery of dying small town, but we mock blacks and Latinos who struggle in inner cities?

More important, what can we do to lift people of all backgrounds out of poverty, without making them go all Hunger Games on each other?

Well, I know that telling the WWC that they are right to feel rage at immigrants, and are correct to get pissed at a changing world, are not productive ideas.

So now that we’ve embraced the exact wrong thing to do, can we somehow adjust and do things the right way — for all our sakes?


All You Need Is… Wait, You Need More Than That

In the realm of simplistic nonsense, few ideas are more insidious than the claim that you don’t need money if you just, well, love each other a whole lot.

hugging

This sentiment has lived on despite the well-documented fact that the number-one cause of marital tension is money. It also ignores the overwhelming financial stresses that clobber poor people every day.

And as for how poverty affects children, well, the data is just too depressing to mention.

And now a study has verified what we all suspected, which is that a family’s income level is a better indicator of the overall well-being of children than other factors. The research “cuts against the grain of oft-stated public opinions on traditional family composition,” which is a nice way of saying that being married doesn’t matter much when it comes to raising kids. Having bucks is vastly more important.

For example, the study found that just 9% of children from the lowest income bracket go on to earn college diplomas. But 77% of children raised in the top quarter of income eventually graduate college.

Take a look again at those numbers. They basically say that if you come from a poor family, you almost certainly won’t go past high school. But if your parents are somewhat well-to-do, you have a great shot at snagging at least a BA.

The researchers believe that richer parents — whether they are married, divorced, or single — can afford to provide their kids with certain advantages, like the best pre-schools, trips abroad, and extracurricular activities.

Hispanic parents often do not have the financial ability to offer their children such resources. So while our strong familial bonds help kids develop into responsible adults, it is no match for the dollars that rich people can spend on their offspring, who will almost inevitably do better in life.

Of course, a rugged individualist is bound to say, “Tell those lazy Latinos to work harder and get out of poverty.”

And this brings us back to simplistic nonsense.

You see, another study says that roughly two-thirds of low-income Latino children have at least one foreign-born parent. This isn’t surprising, as recent immigrants are often poor. But what’s interesting is that low-income Hispanic children are also more likely to have at least one employed parent, compared to other low-income children. This means Latino immigrant parents are more likely to fall into the category of the working poor.

So Hispanics, especially immigrants, are already working harder than many poor people. And yet they are still broke.

The study points out that poverty hits Latinos disproportionally. In addition, poverty often plays out differently in Hispanic households, in that the influence of extended family and community is stronger, which can be an asset.

However, it can also be a hindrance, in that low-income Latino homes often have different structures than the general population. For example, low-income Hispanics may have to set aside money for elderly parents or for remittances back home, which can cut into funds for childcare.

The study also found that among Latino children with a foreign-born parent, just 36% live with parents who are married. But of course, that doesn’t matter much, does it?

 


No Relaxing Allowed

As I’ve written before, we Hispanics are known for our fierce work ethic.

Think of immigrants slaving away at grueling tasks that native-born Americans refuse to do. Or consider that last year, “the number of Latino entrepreneurs grew more than white, black, and Asian entrepreneurs.”

Yes, we sure like to work. It’s unfortunate, then, that so many Hispanics who reach old age have nothing to show for it. This is because “fewer than half of … Latino workers have retirement plans on the job, leaving the vast majority of them with no savings designated for their golden years.”

hammock

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Move Over

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in an LA neighborhood that features both apartment buildings with working-class residents and million-dollar mansions. Again, I am much closer to one end of that scale than the other (I will let you guess which).

In any case, the mixed character of my neighborhood may be doomed. According to one study, “the percentage of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods dropped to 42 percent in 2009 from 65 percent in 1970.” Basically, more people are packing up and moving to one end of the spectrum (i.e., very wealthy or very poor), and “the growing physical separation of the rich and poor is hastening the decline of middle-class neighborhoods and could make income inequality even worse.”

moving co

In essence, this is the new segregation, but along class lines rather than strict ethnic boundaries. Of course, those two concepts are strongly linked, so it’s really just racial segregation again, but not as overt and with a twenty-first-century twist.

But keep in mind that “the growing divide has been especially striking in the country’s black and Hispanic communities, where the rich and poor of each racial group are dividing from one another at a pace far quicker than in the white community.”

I suppose this means that I have to start packing.

 


Remember, Envy Is a Deadly Sin

“There’s class warfare, alright. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war. And we’re winning.”

—Warren Buffett

Eat the rich!

—Aerosmith

In Manlio’s Argueta’s gripping novel, One Day of Life, soldiers of a repressive Central American government beat and abuse poor villagers. The peasants’ crime, as one militaristic thug puts it, is that “they don’t love the rich.”

It’s a rather harsh reaction to expressing displeasure with the ruling class. We haven’t come to that in the United States, at least not yet.

Still, the concept of class warfare, invoked primarily by right-wing politicians, holds that middle-class and poor people are simply jealous of rich individuals, or that they are being riled up to hate the wealthy.

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