Alarming News

August 27, 2009

Shame and Poor People

Hi, this is T. AKA Ricky Raw of the blog The Rawness, a blog about human nature and sexual politics. Karol asked me to guest blog here this week, which is awesome because I rarely blog about politics any more and I miss it from time to time.

I envy bloggers like Karol who can prolifically blog pithy missives daily, but alas, that’s not me. I’m more of a once-a-week blogger who just blogs infrequent, but lengthy rambling discursive rants. Which is why you are only just hearing from me today.

But anyway, the point of this post: Shame and poor people.

Posted by T. at 10:40 AM |

Hey, welcome to the party. You can use that second big text box down on the Movable Type to put content “below the fold,” if that’s what you’d like to do for a longer post.

Posted by: BG at August 27, 2009 at 11:16 am

Ah, thanks BG!

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw at August 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

If Republicans want to really elevate poor people and get them to accept personal responsibility and pursue success legitimately…
I’d argue that, in a vacuum, the pursuit of success is something that both parties would like to put in front of voters as a realistic and achievable path to wealth, growth and security – if not in reality, at least selling them the idea as a reasonable aspiration.
That being said, the maximum potentials of “free market” and “growth” as desirable outcomes for our economy* depend on access to cheap, reliable labor. I’d argue that creates an incentive to keep a class of people from “legitimate success,” instead keeping them just employed enough not to leave their jobs and making just enough money to shovel it all back into the economy as a consumer. I realize “employed” versus “criminal” can be seen as “legitimate success” versus “total failure,” but I kinda tend to think neo-serfdom isn’t something that resembles “legitimate success” in any aspirational sense.
Not saying by any means that welfare/social programs are essential to “create success” or anything of the sort. Just pointing out that this whole “bootstraps” thing comes with limitations, because for the free market/growth corporate ideal to arise, the working class being kept in their proper place is an economic priority. Yanking on those bootstraps can carry the lucky or most fortunately positioned of us to the top. For others, success is going to have limitations.
Facilitating where those limits exist can be a governmental role. Obviously, you’re operating from the point of view that it shouldn’t be, and that personal responsibility can adequately take someone into “legitimate success.” I don’t think that’s entirely true, as personal circumstances can definitely place a ceiling on how high someone can go.
*not arguing that “free market” or “growth” aren’t ideal – qualified my point by saying “maximum potentials,” which is what I mean

Posted by: BG at August 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

I love this post. Even if BG somehow translates it to mean you hate black people.

Posted by: Karol at August 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I’m at a better internet connection now so I wanted to add that I’ve written about shame and abortion before. In the Soviet Union, and I’m sure in Russia today too, there is zero shame in abortion which I believe encourages the practice:

Posted by: Karol at August 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Even if BG somehow translates it to mean you hate black people
Talk about race baiting! BG didn’t mention anything about race in his comment at all! The only folks equating race and poverty here are you and the original poster!

Posted by: Jamie at August 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Home run T. Very insightful and sensible. I think the same argument applies to shaming young men to marry, shaming young people to be more financially responsible, etc. We are all working to escape the gristmill that the govt. system has become and often those doing the shaming are achieving the exact opposite result from what they intend. Nice work.

Posted by: alphadominance at August 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Came here from The Rawness.
You did a good job expressing my own thoughts on the matter in a more articulate way than I would have.
Republicanism in the states derives from a long tradition of English liberalism and laissez-faire capitalism. The idea that man controls his own destiny is implicit in those philosophies.
Then again, the successful will want to believe that their successes are because of their own choices. And the poor or unsuccessful often wish to believe that their failures aren’t their faults.
@Karol – the author’s black. That’d be hard to do.

Posted by: Faol at August 27, 2009 at 2:01 pm


Posted by: DOUGLAS FIELD at August 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I love this post. Even if BG somehow translates it to mean you hate black people.
My point, which I noted in my Twitter feed, was that there is absolutely phrasing in here that draws broad generalizations that make it sound like the poor people in need of shame are the black ones. This part, particularly:
They are taught to believe in institutional racism. They are told the game is so hopelessly rigged against them that it’s not even worth their effort to play. Even most of their popular culture from the most violent gangsta rap to the most “positive” hip-hop music reinforces this hopelessness. Their gospel music and churches tell them that their life is in God’s hands.
I realize this was a “ramble,” and when I do that, I’m often guilty of going too far off-the-cuff myself, especially when it comes to generalizations. I understand what the message is, and it’s certainly not “poor black people need to develop a sense of shame,” but language like the clip above can be distracting to those not willing to grant the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: BG at August 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Jamie, it was on twitter. Welcome to 2008.
And yes, Faolan, I’m aware.

Posted by: Karol at August 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

BG, the articles I linked to and was responding to were talking about poor people in general and black people in particular. So in responding to their points, I addressed the same two topics. I supposed I could have made that clearer but it was getting too long as it was.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw at August 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm

No worries T. Like I said, if you’re going to ramble, you’re probably going to end up with a couple of generalizations or simplifications along the way.

Posted by: BG at August 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Even rereading I really don’t think the language is rambles all that much or the generalizations are all that harsh toward poor black people. I suggest reading the two pieces I’m responding to in full to understand why I chose the examples I did.
I used to be a black radical leftist. I’ve lived in ghettos. I’m a lifelong rap fan to this day, so I know about the messages in the music. I stand by what I said about many poor blacks thinking the system is automatically rigged against them. A lot of what I said applies to all poor people, but I also used some factors that specifically affect poor blacks in particular because in addition to many of the class-related messages of hopelessness they receive along with poor whites, they get the added burden of race-related messages of hopelessness in addition.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw at August 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm

I don’t think it’s any kind of coddling from the Democrats and white liberals that cause poor people to have an external locus of control. It’s reality.
If you don’t speak, act and look a certain way, your opportunities are limited. Only offering opportunities in the mainstream society to those who conform to it serves to reinforce the dominant culture and we can see proof of it in the fact that successful immigrants “assimilate” and adapt the dominant social norms while others remain ethnic and less well to do (except for one particular ethnicity I can think of).
That being said, in my opinion its more a matter of people who have internal loci : ) of control come from generally more permissive households and those who have external LoC tend to come from authoritarian and more stratified homes. The violence, berating and psychological abuse against children that happens in poor families is not the norm in more well-to-do circles.
If you come from a home where you have to ask your mother for permission to drink the juice at 10 years old, you are not getting the message that the world is your oyster, lol. If you come from a home where your parents allow you to make decisions in your life from young and you get to see the cause and effect in your outcomes, you will of course understand you have control in your life.

Posted by: Asha at August 28, 2009 at 2:44 pm

This sheds some light on differences in outlook between poor/black Americans and poor/black immigrants to the U.S. Even if the immigrant is equally as poor as a native, presumably he’s moving up from where he was. Not only that, his situation and his improvement are under his control, since he moved himself to the U.S.
An aside: This reminds me of the islamic concept of “Inshallah” — God willing. Americans soldiers training Arabs have difficulty getting them to take responsibility for outcomes because everything is in Allah’s hands.

Posted by: Alex J. at August 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Fascinating insight, T. A black friend told me that she thinks a lot of black people have become addicted to “the struggle”. They identify with it and don’t want to give it up. The kind of learned helplessness you describe is a part of it.

Posted by: hello at August 31, 2009 at 1:37 am
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