I was recently given this essay. This essay is found in, “Seeding the Process of Multicultural Education: An Anthology”. Her essay is a first person narrative with poetry woven in. It's always wonderful to discover people who can tell it like it is...Here are the parts that I was sitting there saying, “Uh huh, Girl. Talk. You tell 'em”. At the end I was standing up and saying, “Yeah!”...
“We operate out of class in this country, but we don't talk about it. There's no acknowledgment that there's not a platform from which to speak about class, especially for the poor. And the poor are up against it already. So they don't confront and they don't push because that could create more pain and that would be unbearable.
Maybe that's why there isn't a lot said about poverty when you're in it. You wait for things to change and look back on your experiences. There isn't any clout from that position, that's part of the not talking about class oppression: talking about it feels like exposure....”
“I understood. When you don't have anything and don't know where money will come from, you have to save everything. We save because we might need. Everything that you come across is important. So I felt at home in my friend's house because I understood they didn't have anything, either. They saved everything.
But there's a contradictory side to poverty; spending like there's no tomorrow, as though our happiness had to be consumed today. Who knows what hard time is waiting for us tomorrow? Worse, who won't survive another day?
Poverty builds some kind of character: to make judgments between the two--saving and embracing the immediate. The money may go in exchange for having joy. The respectability may go in exchange for a good belly laugh. The demure demeanor may go in exchange for a deep, mournful cry that needs to gush forward.
Money has all value and money has no value. It takes so much to fill what is needed, that, in a sense, it doesn't matter because if you have it, it goes. Money is the pin. It moves everything around. Enough is such a large amount, seeming so far out of reach, that you piss it away if you have any. There is no hope about saving because you're always at a deficit. In its place is an emphasis on the experiences of the day. That's what matters.
I notice that people with money talk about it a lot. I was sitting in a meeting with employees of my district and they began to discuss the “Rule of 90” as though everyone knows what it means. Their failure to acknowledge class in that room caused them to make this assumption. Then the words savings and annuity come up. It did not fit into my context of living: before, now, or in the future. I don't think about those kinds of things. Because I started with not having enough. I didn't think about piling it up. Getting into neutral territory where you don't owe or you're not doing stuff to get around not having is as good as I can imagine at being...”
“Poor folks have character if nothing else, character and dreams. And what it seems most people know about people living in poverty is what they don't have, not what they do have.
This is important. Children become the fulfillment of the dreams. In the middle and upper classes, people talk about what they're going to do with their parents' inheritance. It is understood that this is always something that is either given away, comes to them, or is divided among them. But in poverty there is nothing left to the children. The children are the wealth. It is the children who take care of the parents financially. It is what children do with their lives that is the legacy of their parents.
Someday it will be better
it will get better.
Poor folks have visions and dreams and desires
tucked in tearful places
too tender to be poked at
by the fumbling hands of not caring.
Poor folks have dreams of the somedays:
someday when I finish school,
someday when we can buy that car
or house or land;
someday when I can paint, write or play music,
someday when I can play.
Poor folks have dreams.”