Damned if You Do and Damned When You Can't

I wonder if Obama really does read The Huffington Post. If so, I hope he sees this since I sincerely doubt I'll be getting an invitation to the White House anytime soon.

When you're poor, everything costs more and that old adage that education is the great equalizer is only true for some. Access to higher education is not equal. For one thing, many colleges undermine financial aid by raising their costs to the point that students have no choice but to go into debt in order to obtain that higher education. After that, if and when a student can find a job worthy of the high priced education they went into debt for, their income will be consumed by the repayment of all those student loans in addition to rent, utilities, food, healthcare, transportation costs, childcare and the list goes on. To my surprise, when my daughter started looking at college opportunities, we were shocked to find out that points are taken off your overall academic scores if your high school is located in a low income neighborhood and a lot of people of pigment as I like to say live in low income areas. Tell me what's equal about that.

Suppose you're the only person in your family that has the privilege of going to college and you do get a career in the field you actually went to school for. You're probably expected to help out the family especially if you grew up with generational poverty. I have three perspectives when it comes to poverty, race and classism because a third of my family is indigenous to America, a third was brought here on slave ships and the other third immigrated to this country. All three had to fight for the right to a higher education. All three had to struggle with poverty caused by racism and all three have their own notions on classism. I grew up in a mostly black neighborhood until my mother found public housing in a mostly white neighborhood. It was only then that I began to see how much they didn't understand about inequality.

Fast forward to today and all of a sudden, a fact my ancestors had to live with has now become a mainstream realization that everybody else has had to deal with for hundreds of years; if you aren't a member of the privileged class, there is no upward mobility. And to be clear, income does not mean wealth. Every day I see people with jobs living out of their cars because the only thing a low wage job does is keep you in the revolving doors of poverty. People with degrees are working low wage jobs because they need money now and low wage jobs are more available than living wage jobs. I've worked two jobs most of my life, Mr. President, but it didn't stop me from having a stroke-like seizure that cost me my jobs and health insurance later; and once I discovered there wasn't a safety net to keep me suspended from sinking further into destitution, I kept on falling.

For all the statistical data collected, papers and books written and case studies available online, how many of them actually track, on a daily basis, the ability for the poor to be resourceful according to the demographics they have to live with or the real time proportions of how much of their paychecks are spent on just trying to survive? I don't ever recall seeing a survival index based on that, have you? Barbara Ehrenreich came close in her book Nickle and Dimed but I'm not sure how much time she's spent around people of color, much less on Native American reservations. People's lives are not as simple as a printout based on someone else's statistics.

As I listen to radio talk shows asking their audiences about what their expectations are on the next four years of your presidency, I have yet to hear anyone talk about realistic expectations based on what we've already seen. The fact is that not one president in the entire history of America has been able to wipe out poverty because the truth is; there are too many vested interests in the government that will prevent that from becoming a reality. There's profit to be made by exploiting the poor. The wealthy are only wealthy if there's poverty in contrast.

So while the economic gap continues to widen due to hidden and obvious inequalities, the haves will go on living in denial while the have-nots do the best they can with what they haven't got, IF they survive. Thanks to the current economy, dominant culture is now figuring out what the rest of us have known for years: you can't pull yourself up from your bootstraps when you can't afford to buy any let alone get into the store to look at them!