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Poverty is a prevalent issue affecting many Americans today. Many homeless people have been locked out by the system, condemning them to a less honorable life on the streets. According to the United Nations Development Programme, there are three classes of poverty namely, material lack, income poverty, and capability deprivation (Chambers, 23). The context of poverty is often discussed by those who are considered wealthy, and their perception of poverty is often viewed from their privileged standpoint. As a result, the poor get sidelined in the conversation of eliminating poverty. In their state of lack, the plight of those in poverty is further confounded by the language the society uses to describe it.
The society has continually used terms and phrases that further promote poverty rather than alleviating. First of all, the definition of poverty may not strike the poor man on the street as poor. The challenges posed by the system as men and women who find themselves disadvantaged lead into more poverty. It leads them to live in slums, and in some cases render them homeless. In ancient Greece, the cradle of civilization, the poor were confined to certain areas in cities, where prostitution was legal. In present America, the poor are either homeless and in the case of minority groups such as immigrants and African Americans, they are forced to put in poor areas on of the city, where they can afford. The larger society perceives them as poor and uses less than flattering terms to describe them.
In the social structure, there exists a division between the well to do people and families. Voughan (93) describes this as separating the unclean from the cleansed. There are the developed nations and the least developed nations. The inequalities in the wealth of nations led to the development of the core and the periphery. The unfortunate fall under the periphery, and are often considered as marginal in the society. The poor are considered an eyesore, morally bankrupt. Attempts to get rid of the poor in France in the late 19th Century was seen as a move to purge to the city of those lacking in morals. Poor neighborhoods were deemed as a breeding ground of bad morals.
The world is currently struggling with immigrants. The subject of immigration is a divisive one, where people are migrating to richer countries to escape poverty. The United States has made it clear, through President Trump that it does not welcome immigrants, and has been actively deporting illegal ones. The narrative fronted is that the immigrants are out to use America’s resources. There have been cases where foul language has been used on these immigrants.
The description of the poor is devoid of neutrality. Many people express their disgust to the poor, especially in slum areas. Underneath their disgust lies the disbelief of the sheer nature of inhabitable standards the poor go through. The not so glowing language contributes to the disillusionment of the poor since the society looks down upon them.
Poverty is caused by systematic inequalities that are part of the social and economic system. The African American can attribute their social and economic challenges to slavery. On the other hand, blame is apportioned to the poor people. The culture is also blamed, where arguments that the poor change their lifestyle then they are more likely to get themselves out of poverty.
Some terms are used to describe the poor, some of the stereotypes. The common perception among people is that the poor are poor because they are lazy, they use drugs and that they want to be permanently on benefits from the government. These stereotypes are not true because even the rich use alcohol and other drugs far and in greater quantities than the poor because they have the means. This type of language does not reflect positively on people who have been rendered miserable by an unfair economic system.
The belief that poor people are poor because of drug use, addiction to welfare benefits is far from the truth. The poor do not willingly sink into poverty but are rather poor because of inequities fronted by the economic systems. The economic structures systematically promote poverty where the wealth of the nation goes to a few people. The minority groups are stuck doing menial jobs just to survive. The system denies them a chance to prosper yet is also fast in using language that demeans them.
Another stereotype used to describe poor people is that they do not value education. The critical component as espoused by teachers (Jeynes, 10) is that parental involvement in education is important for a child’s success. Research has shown that parental involvement leads to success in school. However, teachers tend to assume that children from low-income families do not have support from their parents. Parents in low-income families have reduced chances of visiting their kids’ schools to check on their performance. Also, families which are low earners encourage their kids to do well in school by focusing on reading, limiting television viewing more than wealthy families.
Attitudes toward education do not differ among low-income families and high-income families (Straus, 1). The absence in on-site involvement may be viewed as a lack of interest from a poor parent. The high-income parent, on the other hand, is seen as having job commitments, which excuses them from stereotyping. It follows that low-income earners value their children’s education since they view it as a ticket out of their poverty. Education improves one's chances of making it in the socio-economic system.
The kids from poorer backgrounds possess poor language skills. Compared to their counterparts from wealthy homes, their vocabulary is not as developed. It is believed that language gives them a poor start in their journey through education. As a result, teachers and educators exhort children to denounce their identities to succeed in life. The language that children, especially from African American homes, have been socialized that way. They have an identity in their language, which forms the more significant part of their culture. The ability to speak a language is not indicative of someone’s intelligence (Straus, 1). Therefore kids should be encouraged to denounce their home languages and replace it the school’s medium of instruction.
The laziness tag ascribed to people who are perceived to be poor tend to discourage them from pursuing better lives (Kelly, 80). The stigma around the word laziness has negative effects on the poor. Low-income earners tend to work harder than those in better socio-economic class, often taking a string of part-time jobs to make ends meet (Waldron et al., 68). The term laziness seems to demean how hard the poor work, and that nobody appreciates their hard work. A low-income earner works up to an average of 2,500 hours per year (Straus, 1)
It is commonly held that the poor is that they tend to abuse drugs more than their relatively wealthier counterparts in the US. According to Keyes (110), well-to-do people in use tend to abuse alcohol more than the poor. Across the globe, alcohol has been associated with high income; the higher one earns, the higher the chances of that person abusing alcohol. The assumption that poor people are poor because of drug and substance abuse is widely misplaced, only that the problems that the poor face are more pronounced than the relatively wealthy people. The assumption is that the poor can use their money to buy things that enable them to progress, forgetting the fact that the wealthy have a lot more money to dispose of.
The words used in describing poverty, especially in low-income dwellings are not appealing at all. The imagery expended in conjuring up vivid images of a poor place is hinged on expressing disgust about the conditions, conveying the urgency of improving the living conditions of the people. These descriptions often come from people who do not live in that place, thus not understanding how the poor survive in such conditions. It all boils down to lack of choice or limited choice.
Culture plays a great role in determining whether a community is poor or not. The perceptions that have been advanced over time enable people to make decisions on their futures. Harding, Lamont, and Small argue that the perception between the minority and majority determines how well a child does well in school. Middle-income families say that a child from a poor background may not do well of the course of their lifetimes because the parents are not committed to natural growth. It also follows that people living in poor neighborhoods are less likely to participate in community activities. Culture determines people’s beliefs, whether progressive or retrogressive, which gives rise to their present economic state, hence the language the wider society uses to describe them.
Poverty in society is viewed under a lens of prejudice. The well-to-do people look down upon those who aren’t. Poverty is linguistically associated with the animal, specific reference made to an insect. The living conditions of the poor provide a fodder of all that is bad. Almost always, poverty is caused by an individual or community rather than the entire economic system.
The world intends to get rid of poverty, as part of its goals. However, the language used by people especially those who are wealthy do not seem to support. The descriptions of poverty are hinged on the negative side, leading to disillusionment from the poor. These descriptions and language use paints a bad picture on the poor, even though poverty is a not a product of their making. Lastly language impacts either positively or negatively on how people respond to their economic conditions.
Chambers, Robert. "What is poverty? Who asks? Who answers?." (2006).
Jeynes, William H. "The relationship between parental involvement and urban secondary school student academic achievement: A meta-analysis." Urban education 42.1 (2007): 82-110.
Small, Mario Luis, David J. Harding, and Michèle Lamont. "Reconsidering culture and poverty." (2010): 6-27.
Straus, V. (2018) Five sterotypes about poor families and education: the Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/28/five-stereotypes- about-poor-families-and-education/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.510baebc865d
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