4 Infuriating Examples of Poverty Shaming

Withrising income inequality in the United States and elsewhere, it baffles the mind that some peopleactually seem to celebrate unearned privilege.

In cases ofpoverty shaming, advantagedindividualstry to make those with lower incomes feel bad about themselves for not having a lot of money. Here are four of the most egregious recent examples:

1. Wealthy high school students and $2,000 coats

A school in England had toimplement a ban toprevent wealthier students from flaunting twobrands of winter coat that are famously expensive. Well-off students from this schoolhad begun engaging in cliquey behavior, including pushing their parents to buy them brands of outerwear whose labels serve as ostentatious displays of wealth.

Those in cooler climates — any Minnesotans reading? — may be surprised to find that such a practical and prosaic item would be used as a wayto make poor students feel left out.

Because only a couple of brands are highly expensive, this makesfor an easy wayto distinguishing the havesfrom the have-nots. And it’s of the reasons some schools feel that school uniform policies are a good idea.

2. No money, no school lunch

Sometimes the school itself is the problem. While many school districts provide free or reduced lunch for students in need, this isn’t universal. And the thought of asmall child being denied food, as well asbeing called out publicly forlackingmoney, is upsetting to say the least.

However,evenwhenstudents are provided with a free lunch, they can be outed to their classmates. To solve this problem in a more comprehensive way, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking districts to come up with better solutions. The upsettingreality is that solutions already exist, but some schools, districts or states just aren’t implementing them.

Might this berelated to the larger problem ofunequal education fundingacrossthe country?

3. Ocasio-Cortez and the class presumptions of Congress

New member of Congress,Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands out for a lot of reasons. As a woman of color, she is part of a hugely more diverse wave of newcomers to the House — Democratic, that is, as the Republicans still look like a 1950s board of directors for Evil Incorporated. She’s also part of a growing progressive wing of the Democratic party, and she’s the youngest female member of Congress. And, oh yeah, she’s not rich.

Ocasio-Cortez hasbeen slammed, teasedand condescended to by pundits and politicians on the right for everything fromher clothing to the financial challenge of living in D.C. whileawaitingthat first paycheck.

The biggest concern here is the assumption that a person who is not wealthy does not belong in Congress. Members of Congress represent the people of their districts, so what does it say when the very rich imply working- and middle-class people shouldn’t be elected representatives?

It suggests a very undemocratic — indeed, oligarchical — worldview that this country is for the privileged few rather than the 99 percent who actually keep it running day after day. Low-income Republican voters:Considerthat for a minute.

4. The otherness of food stamps

To non-Americans, theSupplemental Nutrition Assurance Program seems very strange. Instead of providing all manner of tax deductibles and social programs like other wealthy countries do, the working poor in the U.S. are given “I am poor” coupons — food stamps — to supplement their grocery shopping.

Why not simply a check? Between food stamps, segregated subsidized housing neighborhoods and school lunch programs it seems impossible to avoid beinglabelled poor inthe U.S. instead of just being treated like everyone else.

The idea thatincomedefines someoneis one of the reasonsit can be so hard to escape poverty.

Photo credit: Getty Images

49 comments

Mollie Wilson-Milesi

We need to fight the long-embedded stereotype that poverty is the individual's fault, somehow due to moral weakness. Society exists to protect and nurture its most vulnerable members. We can all be vulnerable at some point during our lives and we all need to support those who are vulnerable today.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 days ago

Thanks.

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Sherri S
Sherri S4 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h4 days ago

tyfs

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thanks

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thanks

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thanks

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Karen K
Karen K4 days ago

Young people and teens have hormones and insecurities that make them tease whether it's clothes or not. It's about teaching respect, equality, and about unconscious bias at an early age that can help for any circumstance.

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Alea C
Alea C4 days ago

Who does poverty shaming? Douchebags, the 1%, and republicans, not necessarily in that order.

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