In today’s Huffington Post, there’s an article about a speech by Bill Clinton with this quote:
The country has made tremendous progress in shedding various forms of bigotry, Clinton said. “We have just one bigotry left. We don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.”
Seriously? Ok. I’ll admit that we have developed a new bigotry. But there’s still enough old
bigotry out there. Nothing personal, but I still wouldn’t want to be Black in this country. I wouldn’t want to be a woman looking for the same pay as a man. I wouldn’t want to be gay and live in the South.
But the oldest prejudice I know is the one we haven’t even to think about in this country. The prejudice I’m talking about is the idea that poverty is a fault. We believe that wealth is in our control and that people who don’t have the necessary resources for living deserve — on some level- to die, because it’s their fault. If bad things happen to you, you must have done something wrong. If you are poor, you haven’t done something right. Forget that you can’t find work. You didn’t work hard enough. Forget that no one will hire you. You are a mooch — a leach on the teat of America’s economy who doesn’t deserve to eat. Forget that you got a poor education or that your parent(s) had to work, you don’t have the skills to make it in polite society. Forget that people still doesn’t pay women the same as men. We fault “welfare mothers”. Forget that you can’t keep a job because you have a mental or physical illness you can’t do anything about. You deserve to be poor.
Don’t misunderstand me. There are poor people who are that way because of their own choices, just as there are Blacks who are lazy and women who abuse welfare, and gay pedophiles. But one doesn’t guarantee the other. It just points out our bigotry that we see all when it’s actually some. If you are offended by that comparison, you can feel the offense that poor folk put up with daily.
There are so many ways to become poor in this society, so many handicaps to prevent people from getting ahead, so many small mistakes with so many huge consequences, so many con men with no morals who rob the weak.
We need to get over ourselves and the idea that poverty is controllable. We need to stop punishing people for things they can’t do anything about. We need to give people an actual equal opportunity. We need to start helping them become their best self, despite what we might think. To do otherwise would be to maintain bigotry.