Shanesha Taylor's case is one I understand all too well. When the media broadcasted her tearful mug shot last year, it was no surprise to see the judgment launched against her simply for being a homeless mother caught in a desperate situation. It's also not surprising to me to see how much her every move has been followed regarding donated funds that were basically gifts that apparently have strings attached: other people's expectations.
Shanesha's case is a perfect example of judgmental hate pretending to be in her best interest. It is absolutely pointless to damn a woman for being a single parent, damn her for not being able to get the help she needed to prevent homelessness then when she gets a large sum of money donated to her, she's damned for how she spends it, damned for not donating a portion of it to people who feel they are entitled to a portion of it simply for coming to her aid or worse, prosecuted for her decision not to put a portion of her donated funds into a trust fund for her kids. Maybe there is more to her case than just being a single mother. Maybe it's about the stereotypes associated with being black and poor. Maybe it's about right wing dogma and control over women. Maybe it's about using a single mom as a scapegoat to vent vitriol instead of actually doing something about ending poverty in our communities or creating more sustainable living wage jobs or affordable housing.
Shanesha, if you can see this, please don't lose hope! I am a homeless single mother myself who worked two jobs to the point of a stroke. I know what it's like to need help while knowing it's not coming. I know what it is to be judged for being in a bad situation no matter what I did to improve it. Unlike you, I never received donations in the amount you have but I was criticized for receiving what I did get for gas, food and occasional stays at a low rate motel during the winter. Non-homeless people are clueless about the daily realities of homeless life so don't worry too much about their opinions. They don't understand indefinite waiting lists that are the reality of housing programs or the breadcrumbs the state offers. The only thing that matters is that you get the help and support you need for you and your kids.
Shanesha's story matters on many different levels but I see two obvious ones; ignorance and hate, the bosom buddies of self-righteous judgers. No one has the right to dictate to anyone how to spend their money, even if it's gifted. I look at ugly comments posted by these judgers and think about how many of them have spent their money on things like cigarettes, alcohol or jewelry that could've been spent on food donations to a local food bank, shelter or children's hospital. I suppose that those who claim to practice "judge not lest ye be judged" only do so as long as it doesn't apply to them. I suppose too, that "love thy neighbor" can be twisted into "love thy neighbor but only if they're not black, poor or non-conformist".
As for the rest of you, if you think you have the right to pass judgment on someone for not meeting your expectations of them; you're a hypocrite. Shanesha Taylor isn't what's wrong with society, YOU ARE. Nobody had even heard of Shanesha Taylor until her mug shot went viral and I'm willing to bet money I don't have that people will forget her story once the media circus is over and when that happens, another single mother will be right back to where she started; alone and faced with an uncertain hell sure to follow.
This post is part of the "28 Black Lives That Matter" series produced by The Huffington Post for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will shine a spotlight on one African-American individual who made headlines in 2014 -- mostly in circumstances we all wished had not taken place. This series will pay tribute to these individuals and address the underlying circumstances that led to their unfortunate outcomes. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #28BlackLives -- and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.