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Uh, hello, even Fox News can tell this is a bad idea:
Nearly two dozen states are considering plans this session that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And Wyoming lawmakers advanced such a proposal this week.
Driving the measures is a perception that people on public assistance are misusing the funds and that cutting off their benefits would save money for tight state budgets — even as statistics have largely proved both notions untrue.
…The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney saying it’s an “excellent idea.”
Of course the millionaire thinks it’s okay to invade the privacy of people in desperate situations and treat them like criminals for being poor.
There’s a word for that: classism.
Statistics indicate that people who receive public assistance are no more likely to use drugs than the general population. Budget analysis shows that testing is so expensive, and so few people actually fail the test and get kicked off assistance, that it costs much more than it saves. Additionally, there is a trend of these laws getting ruled unconstitutional in court.
So why would Republicans still support bills that discriminate pointlessly, add cost to state budgets, and will probably get declared unconstitutional?
Because they are counting on the existence of stereotypes about the poor, and that this discrimination will win them short-term political points.
Some state politicians have tried to add in drug testing for state legislators, who receive even more money from the government than recipients of public assistance. None of these measure have been adopted or seen the same kind of vigorous support as drug testing for the poor. Huh.
I love it when American leadership poor-bashes!
South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer was speaking at a town hall meeting when he felt the urge to discuss poor people who receive government aid:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
The news media have pointed out that 58% of school-age children in Bauer’s state qualify for free or low cost lunch.
But that hole was not deep enough by Bauer’s exacting standards. So he kept digging.
“I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina. You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period.”
“So how do you fix it? Well you say, ‘Look, if you receive goods or services from the government, then you owe something back.’ “
“They can continue to have more and more kids, and the reward is there’s more and more money in it for them.”
Where to start? The suggestion that starving poor people will stop them from “breeding”? The suggestion that while the well-off classes are thinking people who make love, the poor are thoughtless “animals” who “breed”? The weird idea that receiving free lunch makes you a bad student? The suggestion that the poor have to pay back their aid to the government?
It’s not like food is a human right or anything. It’s not like it’s morally reprehensible to suggest starving children based on what class of society they were born into.
How is Bauer not transparent as he blames all of our problems on a despised, disenfranchised minority?
Racewire has some great analysis:
Sarcasm aside, it’s real easy, regardless of background, to buy into the ‘welfare queen’ racialized stereotype — the Black mother popping out kids and living well on the taxpayer’s money, because she has the morals of a common animal. That image has been complemented in recent years by the ‘illegal immigrant’ having ‘anchor babies’ and refusing to learn how to speak American. Call it one of Reagan’s many gifts to the nation he hated so much: a method by which amoral rich white men can change the subject away from themselves.
The truth is that poverty, and everything connected to it, is a systemic issue, not an issue of choice. It’s a lot easier to make it to that parent-teacher conference when you have a good job with benefits and child care. And it’s a lot easier to have that good job when your parents could afford to get you into a good college, and when your family’s lived for generations in a neighborhood with access to public transportation and grocery stores — when you never had to learn about redlining. When the ground you walk on doesn’t make you or your kids sick, because your neighborhood has always had the political clout to keep that oil refinery from being built next door.
Hallelujah! Of course it was money that finally convinced the racist City Council in this Louisiana Parish and not a sense of justice, but whatever. The result is that St. Bernard Parish will not hold a referendum to try banning multi-family (read: affordable) dwellings. This ban would naturally have targeted, SURPRISE! blacks and poor people of whichever race.
From the Times-Picayune:
After pressure from federal housing officials and a pending lawsuit in federal court, the St. Bernard Parish Council on Tuesday officially rescinded an item on this month’s special election ballot that would have given voters the chance to permanently ban large apartment complexes in the parish.
The move came on advice from the parish’s lawyers, who last month told the council that they believed the potential apartment ban would jeopardize federal financing for recovery projects and hurt the parish’s appeals of its ongoing fair housing lawsuit.
Last night, I rode my bike home from an event a couple miles from my house.
It was nearly 2 am and I had some concerns about drunk drivers. I turned down a driveway passage that leads between some public housing complexes near my house to avoid the cars racing up and down the major roads.
As I was riding through the central courtyard, I noticed a group of rather large men, dressed all in black, standing together at one end.
As I passed them, they took note of my presence and started shouting at me. They yelled out “HEY!” several times and demanded that I stop and talk with them.
It took me zero seconds to decide that would be a piss poor idea and to peddle all the faster. Usually ignoring such attention from men and leaving the area quickly is enough.
Not this time. I realized one of the men was literally chasing me. I was overwhelmed with fear. I didn’t even want to imagine what a cluster of five men hanging out in a dark corner at 2 am and shouting at women would want with me. My whole body went cold and I peddled as fast as I could, aiming for the bright lights of the nearest busy street.
I heard one of the men shout “Police!” and thought maybe a police officer was coming to the rescue.
Oh how wrong I was.
Because these men were the police.
That realization did not make me feel any better. I quickly assessed my options and decided to stop before any guns were drawn. Though I experience white skin privilege, the police in my neighborhood are so accustomed to abusing the marginalized communities here that I believed white privilege wouldn’t overcome their “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.
The five police officers approached and surrounded me. Up close I could see that their dark clothing was black or navy uniforms with policey-decorations on them. They were all white, which I thought was odd for this majority-POC neighborhood. They demanded to know what I was doing in “the projects”. I responded that I was riding my bike home, and that the complexes were between my starting point and destination. They told me that this is a “high crime area” and that I “shouldn’t be around here”. I informed them that that was unreasonable because I live “around here”. That sounding deeply implausible, the leader demanded my ID and accused me of fleeing the police. He and three officers went a few paces away and huddled, speaking in low tones, for the next 15 minutes. One officer was left to monitor me.
I was thoroughly frightened and confused. I had only planned on a quick 10-minute bikeride from hanging out with friends to my home. Being shouted at, chased, and surrounded by a group of five big-bodied men… it hadn’t really occurred to me as a possibility. I expressed my confusion at this turn of the events and questioned my detention. They told me to wait.
Eventually, the leader of the group stalked up to me and in a raised, aggressive voice informed me that I was charged with disorderly conduct and riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. He informed me that I had known all along they were police, that I had shouted insults at them, and that I had deliberately tried to flee them.
This was, of course, news to me. I explained that when I pass noisy groups of men who shout at me in dark passages in the wee hours, it is simply a matter of survival that I get out of the situation, and that any woman in my place would do the same. He repeated that I had known they were police and had intentionally committed this crime.
He handed me the tickets and I got out of there fast. I have never felt so unsafe in my own neighborhood. I have never been harassed in this manner in my neighborhood before. I feel thankful that I came out of the situation with my life. That may be my white privilege. Around here, as around the country, police have a reputation for murdering black people. They murdered one man earlier this summer for the crime of being on his porch and telling a disguised under-cover cop to stop loitering on his property. He was killed in his own front doorway.
Some other reflections:
1. All this shouting and chasing and harassing was in the courtyard of a large housing complex full of families. I am talking hundreds of people. How safe can they feel when police officers are loitering outside of their homes screaming at the top of their lungs at every passer-by? Especially when this community, being low income and of color and partly immigrant, is already subject to excessive amounts of police harassment?
2. My own white privilege was revealed to me as I came to realize that this is what my neighbors experience every day, and that I usually escape it. It’s possible that the same darkness that prevented me from seeing the police uniforms prevented them from seeing my skin tone. They may have planned on harassing a public housing resident of color, and I just blundered into the situation by assuming that I can go wherever I want without police harassment. The fact that I never realized how police interactions interlace the daily lives of my neighbors is a wake up call for me.
3. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THOSE OFFICERS? How dare they harass a woman who is traveling alone at night in an isolated location away from any busy roads (where there would be witnesses and the potential to call for help)? Are they out of their minds? How can they be so blind to their male privilege and the legitimacy privilege of possessing state power? Could they really not see why the situation they chose to create was a terrifying nightmare-scenario for their victim? How in the world is public safety achieved by men shouting at and chasing women in the night? I have never felt so unsafe in my neighborhood as I do now. My neighbors haven’t ever done anything to make me feel unsafe, and so until now I had no fears. The behavior of these men was so egregious that I believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find similar instances perpetrated by the supposedly dangerous inhabitants of the public housing buildings.
4. Essentially, my crime here is that I was biking while female. I acted as any rational women would react in this situation. For my natural behaviors of simply trying to survive on the street, I actually have to be a defendant in court.
5. I want to state clearly that this is an intersection of institutional and state classism and racism, and that I will not be accepting comments to the effect of “Oh you’re so naive to live near public housing and/or to think good on your neighbors.” Those comments would be classist and racist and that’s not what this post is here to talk about. Why would I be the “naive white girl” to live near these apartments, but the residents are “hardened black criminals” simply for residing inside the same apartments I live next to? The location of your home does not define you as a criminal or not, nor does your skin color nor your poverty. I guess I should say “should not” instead of “does not”. We all know that people of color, public housing residents, immigrants, and poor people are criminalized simply for existing as such.
Share your stories of police harassment if you like. NO RACISM & NO POOR-BASHING.
This picture has conservative pundit Michelle Malkin in a tizzy. She laughs at it as evidence of the failure of the “liberal” value of serving the poor.
Why? Because the homeless man Ms. Obama is serving has a cell phone. Therefore, he is not poor “enough” to deserve a free meal, therefore he is “working the system,” and Michelle Obama is “enabling” him. I find it incredible that conservatives find a First Woman serving the poor to be insult-worthy.
Malkin laughs at the idea that a homeless person could obtain a phone, though there are programs out there for exactly this purpose: “Some folks are wondering where the cell phone bills get sent. The answer is obvious: ACORN headquarters.” She mocks the idea that a homeless person would need a phone to have any hope of finding work: “The liberals’ argument is that they need cell phones to get jobs. Do they need Blackberry Pearls?!” I don’t think that’s a liberal argument. I think it’s an obvious argument. It seems she can’t quite get her mind around the idea of a poor person trying to find a job, because it contradicts her set-in-stone belief that the poor are poor because they are lazy.
Exactly how destitute do you have to be for Malkin to consider you “worthy” of help? She has previously mocked an elderly black woman who lived in her car for saying to Obama that she just wanted a kitchen of her own. What else does Malkin think the poor don’t deserve? More importantly, why?
What the hell is wrong with Malkin? Rarely do we see a person so publicly gloat over their economic privilege, and use their prominent position to further crush the downtrodden. And in a time of terrible recession as well- nice job Malkin. I bet you claim to have “family values.” I bet you tell your readers that liberals have no morals.
Her confident assumption that she deserves a kitchen, a cell phone, a home, regular meals, and a great job, while poor people, by virtue of being poor, do not, makes me think that she must avidly read Ayn Rand before going to bed every night. I would even call her righteous derision of the poor Rand-esque, except that she would probably consider it a compliment.
Who is that American flag in her picture waving for? Her. Because she deserves it. For her job security, for her above-average income, she deserves all the riches, the services, the amenities, the possessions America can offer her.
H/t Womanist Musings
“I worked my whole life and all I have now is my broken body.”
-Mexican migrant worker in the US, photographed and quoted in the 1930s by Dorothea Lange.
I guess I’m posting this to in a small way counteract the myth that all it takes is hard work to achieve the American Dream. And therefore, the poor are poor because they are too lazy to better themselves. Re: loathing of the poor.
Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on October 23rd, 2008: “The reason people are poor in America is not because they lack money, it’s because poor people in America lack values, character, and the ability to work hard.”
Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on October 27th, 2008: “Among the so-called noble poor in America … [b]irth control is not used so illegitimate children can be brought into the world, so the mom can get more checks in the mail from the government. And then once the child is born, that is the key to financial riches in the poor communities — white and black — in America.”
Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on December 4th, 2008: “[W]e’re about the only country in the world with fat poor people . . . the poor community, so to speak … have cell phones, they have pagers, they have telephones, they have cars, they have HDTV, and they have those things because they spend no money on food, because it’s all given to them for nothing . . . Why would a grocery store open in the poor community when everyone gets fed free and they eat too much?”
Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on January 4th: “[P]oor people were not and are not poor because they lack money. They’re poor because they lack values, ethics, and morals . . . All that the mid-’60s and ’70s did to the black community was to pay black fathers money on condition that they not be involved in the lives of their children and that black mothers were told that if you married, it would have a painful consequence. If, on the other hand, you acted irresponsibly by producing children out of wedlock, you would have a positive consequence, because government would fund bad behavior.”
Why, gee Bill, ya got quite a chip on your shoulder against low-income people. How is it that you know so much about a category of people that you know absolutely nothing about?
Via Media Matters.
Curious people have a lot of questions, and below you will find lots of answers! I decided to compile some of the awesomest basic resources (101s) out there on the internet about -isms and social justice so that you can find most of what you need in one easy post. So here are some resources about important topics like feminism 101, anti-racism 101, ableism 101, and so much much more! It’s my own 101 101.
What is Womanism? Posted by Trula Breckenridge
Definition of the word “Womanism” from A Feminist Theory Dictionary
Shakesville’s Feminism 101 page
- RACE & ANTI-RACISM
Resist Racism’s Racism 101
Alas, a blog, on How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism
Ableism, Accessibility and Inclusion by Heather De Mian
Some info about Ableism by Greg Wolbring
- FAT ACCEPTANCE
Size Acceptance 101 on Case Gordita
But Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy? on Shapely Prose
Size Acceptance 101 on Shamless
- GENDER, HETERONORMITIVITY, TRANSPHOBIA, HOMOPHOBIA
A resource from Questioning Transphobia: How to Check Your Cis Privilege
Trans 101 on T-Vox
Trans and Genderqueer 101 at Gendercrash.com
The Bilerico Project’s Homosexuality 101
- INTERSECTIONALITY & GENERAL
Intersectionality 101 on Illvox
How to Fuck Up by Teh Portly Dyke
Please add all those I missed (there must surely be many) in the comments!