Sunday, January 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Privilege


Barbra Ehrenreich, a successful upper-middle class journalist, set out to expose what poverty is truly like by diving headfirst into it. What she discovered, as written in her book Nickel and Dimed, is that in poverty, "starting conditions are everything"(27). 

This, sadly, is a hard reality many of the United State's 46 million people in poverty. As Ehrenreich describes it, poverty is a black whole that without the proper starting block is quite frankly far to easy to fall into. For example, Ehrenreich tells of a young girl names Holly who she works for a popular Maid company in Maine. Holly works for minimum wage (around $6.50 per hour) all the while trying to feed and support her husband and elderly relatives on $30-50 a week (95). She is quite often too poor to buy herself lunch and resorts to a small cracker sandwich for a seven hour day of manual labor. Cases like these are unfortunate in themselves but the real tragedy is the spiral effect of unfortunate events that result for living in poverty- an example, health care. One in four adults can't afford medical attention they need, even after purchasing health insurance. Without necessary medical attention, many working-class jobs wouldn't be doable. Without money from these working-class jobs, debt starts to pile up which can lead to eviction, starvation, etc. People are suffering, and something needs to be done about it.

These struggles raise the question of how this system of deep poverty and cycle of despair can be changed. It all comes back to the concept of privilege. People who are able to afford a home, be properly educated, etc. are so much more likely to be able to support themselves. Perhaps the question is not how can poverty be stopped, because having a class of the poor is inevitable in capitalistic society, but rather how can we spread equal opportunity- equal privilege- to everyone. There is no distinct answer of how to do this, but with programs such as Obamacare, we are stepping in the right direction. 

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