It’s not funny

I am so frustrated and angry, I don’t even know if I can get through this post. This… ignorance. I mean, okay. I know it’s all around and everywhere but DAMN if Facebook doesn’t just smack you in the face with it on the regular.

People post memes and “jokes” and can’t understand why it’s offensive. And I dive into the rabbit hole every. single. time. WHY?!?!?! I’m sure my husband is thinking that himself. Don’t even go there, Steph. I can hear him saying it now. But, I have to. SOMEBODY has to. Will it make a difference? Maybe not. Probably not, but that doesn’t make it okay to keep quiet.

I’m about to drop a bombshell on you all, so brace yourselves.

Not everyone (or even MOST) on state or government assistance is abusing the system. Not everyone in a predominantly black community is on state or government assistance. What is happening in Baltimore (and previously in Ferguson and too many other places to count) is an outrage on a multitude of levels.

What it is NOT is an opportunity for jokes. A group of people feeling so disenfranchised, so invisible that they feel the only way to be noticed and taken seriously is to riot is not funny. Mothers hauling their children out of the way by whatever means necessary is not a joke. This is NOT HUMOROUS.

Now, I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m not a minority (I am almost translucent, I am so pale), so I don’t know that oppression. Join me, white people in admitting that WE DO NOT KNOW THAT OPPRESSION. So stop pretending you do. I have no idea what it must feel like to be that mother that’s become internet-famous for dragging her son out of a riot on live television. People are praising her and people are cursing her. I am a mother, though. And while I can sit here at my desk and tell you there is no instance during which I’d feel it appropriate to smack my kids, what I cannot tell you is what I would do if I were her. If I saw my child doing what her son was doing. I do know I’d haul my ass down there and remove her by whatever means necessary. Friends of mine have called what she did “emergency parenting” and I think that is fitting. Until you are faced with a life or death situation (which that absolutely was), you cannot possibly know what you would do. You just can’t.

Deep breaths. Moving on. To welfare. First of all, there are a number of different ways low income families can receive assistance. There is HUD or Section 8 housing (I was a Section 8 kid), there is Head Start (I was also a Head Start kid), there is SNAP (I was also a Food Stamps kid back in the days when you got a booklet of actual paper vouchers you had to pull out and use in the checkout line), there is subsidized nutrition in schools (I was also a free lunch kid back in the days when kids had actual lunch tickets and I had a big hole punched above the word FREE), there is state insurance, and so much more. All of these have income guidelines. All of the people who receive these services are human beings.

Image by: @TinkaOCurry

I see all the posts about drug testing and restricting what kind of food “welfare people” can buy and refusing them “luxuries” like admission to movie theaters and it makes me sick.

Here is a quote from a single parent who receives services that fall under the umbrella of “welfare”:

I gross $2240 if I work 32 hours per week.

That’s monthly.

I get paid bi-weekly.

So, I gross in two weeks 1120. That means I maybe bring home 850. Every. Two. Weeks. One whole check? Is my rent.

And that is now that they adjusted the guidelines for Husky so I qualify to get coverage for myself.

Last year, working 40 hours per week I might have brought home 900 after my medical insurance premiums came out — which I could never afford to use since my deductible was so goddamn high. And they were including my child support in my income which I hadn’t gotten in god knows how long so my child was on Husky B and I was paying $30/month for his insurance and copays. Specialists are $20 a hit and he has five and between therapy and prescriptions I was spending an additional $100 a month.

By cutting my hours this year, I qualify. And I too am sick of the judging. “Oh, must be nice to have your insurance for free.”

Tell me she is milking the system. Better yet, TELL HER THAT. Tell her to move somewhere cheaper. Tell her that her son isn’t worth struggling in a more expensive town so he can get a better education.

And another parent:

Going to the movies is something I treat my daughter to once per year. There are no dinners out unless one of us received gift cards for a birthday or something.

 I haven’t had cable in 10 years. Or a fancy cell phone. Yes, I have a cell phone. It’s nearly a necessity these days.

 It’s almost like choosing your side.

 I could quit. And live on the state and I probably would be able to care for my mentally ill child BETTER than working 40 hours per week. You don’t know the story behind every person on assistance.

Of course there are people who take advantage. There are people who take advantage of everything. But, to make sweeping generalizations about “welfare” people is not only ill informed, it’s disgusting and hurtful.

These people have to check their pride and dignity at the door when they are trying so hard to make a better life for themselves and their children. The kids? Kids get made fun of for being poor. For having generic clothes and food. Please, let’s make the stigma as terrible as possible by adding even more restrictions on this lower class. Let’s punish them for being situations you know nothing about.

Maybe I can’t change the minds of everyone. Maybe people won’t understand that these are human beings with feelings and hopes and fears just like you and me. Maybe they will never get that running your mouth on social media is as painful and insulting as saying it to someone’s face.

But I will never stop speaking up. I am not ashamed of having received assistance in my life. I am grateful it’s there, but don’t think for a second that most people would rather be on it than not.

I hear you. I see you. YOU MATTER.

7 thoughts on “It’s not funny

  1. Thank you for writing this post, Stephanie. Your most important sentence was this one: “Maybe they will never get that running your mouth on social media is as painful and insulting as saying it to someone’s face.” The people to which you refer would never say these things if they had to be accountable for them. These commentors, and the nasty commentors who respond to articles published in the newspaper online, are people we all know and LIKE. There are seething hateful bigots hiding everywhere. “Political correctness” has forced them all underground. I’m happy about that! At least they are not spewing that stuff to my face. But we have failed to teach compassion & empathy — by we, I mean parents, not necessarily teachers, Even if we raise them not to judge based on skin color, they go to school with kids who were not raised that way, and you’ll see what happens in school — the haters are “cool” and their POV spreads like chickenpox. Why do you think we have laws against bullies? Bullying is based on hating the “different” person — any kind of difference. As parents, we have to seek out opportunities to affirmatively — not just reactively — make our kids aware of incidents of bias against someone different, no matter how subtle, until it becomes part of their fiber. Because you experienced economic bias, you know how it feels, but it is possible to teach any child to put herself in the other’s shoes. Your post is a real good start!


    1. Absolutely, Randi. We talk openly and OFTEN about these subjects with the girls. The most important thing they can be, in my eyes, is KIND.


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