You’ve heard them…. Lazy. Stupid. Irresponsible. Drunk. Addicted. Spendthrift. Uneducated. Promiscuous. Immoral. Deserving of their fate. Cheats, liars & thieves. Big-time losers. These are some of the stereotypes that circulate in our society—and our minds—about people who live in poverty.
I find it really difficult to write these words. Poor-bashing stereotypes make too many assumptions about, and lump unique individuals into, a category of people who share only one objective characteristic—that they live in poverty. It is even more painful to read those words. I think of the people I know who live in poverty and feel horror, sadness, pain and anger that anyone would dismiss them on the basis of harmful stereotypes that have nothing to do with who they are.
Perhaps those who use poor-bashing stereotypes repeat what they assume is “common knowledge”, without considering the effects of their words. Some poor people may be able to shrug off poor-bashing stereotypes. But others are deeply wounded by the accumulated weight of such words. These are not simple adjectives used to describe an individual or a group of people. By using poor-bashing stereotypes, the speaker attempts to separate him or herself from those who are the object of their words. To put up a barrier between the speaker and the impoverished and put them in their place. [Read more…]