Hey Gene! What about the poor white kids?

At a certain point, it gets really tiring having people who have never experienced a moment of poverty pontificate about poverty and how they would deal with it. Of course as a Black woman, I get even more bugged by upper middle class white folks who appear to have the cure for what ails poor brown people. To that I say: Really? Then why haven’t you helped out poor white folks?
See, if you were a Martian who landed in the United States and turned on the news, you would assume that most of the poor in this country are Black. Never mind that Blacks are still a minority, nope the take away would be “wow those Black folks are sure as shit deficient.” It seems the women can’t find mates, the men are either locked up or having closeted gay encounters, and they don’t have jobs, and on and on it goes. There are bits of truth in that but let’s be clear it’s not the entire truth by a long stretch.
Yet it’s what creates buzz, as Gene Marks a writer for Forbes this week did with his piece “If I was a Poor Black Kid”, well the internet put the smack down on Mr. Marks and handed him his ass. None of what Marks said was particularly inspired and frankly much of it has been said before; problem is Marks is not a poor Black kid, nor was he a poor White kid and his so-called advice came from a douchebag paternalistic place where in the end anything good turned into that wawa voice from Charlie Brown…just static.
I don’t want to spend much time on Marks and that piece, what I do want to discuss is, how is it that Marks appears ignorant of the fact there are plenty of poor white kids in the U.S.? See, thanks to being a black girl in Maine who works in social services I see em daily. In fact due to my move here almost a decade ago, I often joke in many ways I have become an ally to poor whites. Not something you expect from someone with an undergraduate degree focused in African American studies whose professional aspirations were to get a Ph.D. in African American Studies and whose major area of interest was media representations of Black women. Not exactly the poster girl for championing poor white issues. Funny thing though the universe moved me to Maine and my eyes were opened wide.
Turns out many of the behaviors that pundits, sociologists and others ascribe to poor Blacks are identical in poor whites. Down to men who just leave, though one odd twist that I have seen more of in Maine (so not sure how prevalent it is elsewhere) is moms leaving. More than a handful of families have come across my path where it’s dad and kids, or dad and a new lady who is not bio-mom.
Now schools in rural states like Maine may not rival an inner city school in say my hometown Chicago, but in less moneyed communities the schools don’t have a lot to offer. To be honest the schools aside from say the metal detectors looks identical.
The thing is why is so much damn time spent on highlighting differences? Why can’t people like Marks look broader and think about poor kids in general? One of my growing pet peeves is how people section off the poor, yes there are some historical differences but in modern times, poor people and especially poor kids need help. They all need access to good schools, healthcare, they need parents who are in good shape and ready to parent. Drugs? Well drug use runs rampant in white communities too, very much like the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s…drug of choice in communities that I serve trend towards prescription pills and meth and even the new bath salts. Here in Maine drug stores like CVS and Rite-Aid get robbed on a weekly basis. Yet aside from a few pieces here and there, the spotlight doesn’t shine much on this crisis. As I have said before on this blog the worse part of my job is because this is a predominantly white and rural state, funding for programs like the one I run are harder to come by. Never mind that with each passing year, the numbers of people we serve are on the rise.
To some degree I believe we are all still stuck in the days of yesterday where it’s easier to see race as a barrier rather than class. We need to start having an honest dialogue and talk about the fact that poverty and its ripple effects are bad for all kids, not just poor Black kids!

Talking about the Mommy blogosphere

It’s Friday and it’s hot and here I was thinking what ever will I blog about when a discussion I participated in recently for Bitch magazine was just released. It’s me and several other non standard mom bloggers talking about race and the blogosphere. Check it out! Would love to hear your thoughts!

It might be quiet around these parts for a few days as we get ready to send the eldest back to college. No matter how often he leaves, as a mother when he leaves it takes a few days to get balanced again. Until we meet again…keep passing the open windows!

Food and Class.. what you eat says a lot about you.

This weekend was one of those lazy do nothing sorts of weekends, since with the arrival of the little one three years ago, I rarely make plans for the weekends since kids have a habit of cramping your style. However it turned into a full weekend, which started with the little one and I hitting up a yard sale being put on by one of our neighbors.

I should start off by saying these particular neighbors are one of the two on the block that I don’t speak to other than to wave or just a passing hello if they are walking down the street. Yet they always struck me as solidly working class, I estimate them to be early 50’s maybe late 40’s. I often see the husband coming home from work in the morning with his lunch pail in hand when he gets out the car and walks to get his newspaper from the box. The wife appears to babysit the grand kids since every day I see their daughter dropping her kids off on route to work in a scrub suit, she looks to be early 20’s and the suit reminds me of the medical assisting students I would see at my former place of employment.

For the past month, I have noticed a vehicle with out of state plates and what appears to be another daughter with a couple of preschool aged kids… from my perch on the porch when I am out drinking coffee, the family reminds me of Dan and Roseanne Connor from the old 1990’s tv show, Roseanne. Hardscrable white folks, salt of the earth people.. not pretentious in any way.

So now that I have set the scene, back to the story of the yard sale. Mini-me and I roll up and they have tons of kids stuff they are selling off, which as a bargain hunter, I love that sort of thing so while the wee one and I are sorting through the goodies. The one adult daughter yells out to her kids “Go tell Auntie to make y’all some kool-aid”. I must admit, my jaw did a slight drop, see most of the folks I know these days would never in a million years give their kids, small ones no less kool-aid. In fact I felt bad recently when I told a friend that I bought a box of Lucky Charms for myself and my daughter ended up eating the box.

No, sugar sweetned cereal, kool-aid and other processed delights that I craved as a child are generally forbidden outside of the lower classes. See, food says a lot about where you came from. Fact is for years I used to eat fried bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip but when I stopped buying white bread and started getting multi-grain bread years ago, the allure of fried bologna sandwiches went out the window. Even the spousal unit who also grew up working class has his own delights from childhood, spam and fried egg sandwiches, apparently when times was tight his Mom made these a lot.

My best friend and I joke about how we may be some of the last college educated Black folks that like swine, admittedly though most meat does not agree with me, but I love a fried pork chop sandwich, best served on white bread with hot sauce. ( I tried to give up the swine earlier this year but it started calling my name) Growing up we ate all manner of pork, though I personally drew the line at pig feet/pig ears/ pig tails and chitlins other than that I ate pork. (though chitlins was a delicacy in our family, my Mom used to cook 30 lbs of those of those wretched smelling things on Christmas and Thanksgiving)

 However as I started moving up the class ladder in the past decade, I have grown to realize that most of the brothas and sistas I meet especially if we are not from the same class, don’t share fond memories of neckbones and pinto beans. Whereas I would give a lot right now to have some fried catfish (they don’t sell this in Maine at least not fresh) and spaghetti right now, most of my sista-friends here in Maine, don’t know nothing about that.

In graduate school several years ago, I went to a Japanese restaurant for the first time with some colleagues from my department, mind you I was the only Black person in my department. Well everyone was getting hot and bothered over sushi, well at that time the kid could not wrap her brain around the idea of sushi (shit, where I come from we fry the shit) so I ordered tempura. How come everyone looked at my Black ass like I was an idiot, well I have since learned to eat sushi since after year one in grad school and learning that my adviser loved sushi, I figured networking might get better if I learned to learn the ways of the natives a bit, so I have made myself like sushi.

Yet truthfully when I hit an emotional low, I crave comfort food, and that’s when the working class side of me comes out, recently that was round steak and rice smothered in gravy with biscuits and fuck the veggies. I admit I have come along way since I would say 95% of the time I strive to eat healthy but all this to say that for most of us class even when we move up the ladder in many cases, what we eat reveals a lot about where we come from.

Now let me go get my pitcher ready for my once a year grape kool-aid and Little Debbie’s swiss rolls.