(THIS IS A LONG READ, SORRY. I MADE A VIDEO, LINK AT THE END, IN CASE Y'ALL DIDN'T WANNA READ)
Friendly reminder that I'm not an economist, sociologist, historian or any other professional. Also, we were so poor the "poverty line" seemed like a high salary. So please don't come at me with "you don't know what it's like! Stop criticizing poor people!"
If you were able to read the last take, congrats (part 1 is here). Let's recap: I mentioned the statistics of poverty, (briefly) discussed how history has affected minorities, policies affecting minorities today, and how government assistance has also unintentionally contributed.
So by now, you're probably thinking "Education is the key!" Yes, but even the education system fails many of us.
Some politicians push to get more money into public schools, even though many charter and private schools often performing much better with less money. Many cities with under performing students also limit how many charter and/or private schools can be in certain districts, despite them showing much better results for students. You’d think politicians would be happy to hear this, but they instead want to limit charter schools. So whose interest do they really have in mind?
High schools also have issues like "career counselors" trying to force us into college or university. It's a problem not just in minority communities, but nationwide where there's now a push to bring back trades because it turns out we still need tradespeople. This is going to get a bit more controversial, but not everyone is made for college or university.
Bachelor's degrees are important and a college education does help with upward mobility. In fact, regardless of race, those with more advanced education make more money.
I still wouldn’t advise it for all poor people since the average cost for vocational training program is about $33,000, while the average bachelor's degree costs about $120,000.
Also, the length of time is significantly less for vocational training compared to college. Vocational training gets right to the classes you need to succeed in your field, no need for "religious studies" or "sociology" requirement. Many programs can take as little as 6 weeks to about 2 years. Considering the fact that many black people and Latinos have children in their teens, and many are also single parents, saving time on education can help them provide for their family sooner. There are many smart people who could succeed in college despite being poor, however, it's harder to do so..
Career counselors should inform us on vocations and trades. Yes, a college education is important, but it's not the only path to success. And I know y'all are going to say we should look it up ourselves. But they are CAREER COUNSELORS, it’s their job to help us succeed after high school, not just push bachelors degrees to fulfill quotas.
Revoke my “Latino card”, this is where it's going to really get controversial - cue the “coconut” comments (brown on the outside, but white on the inside). A lot of what our community values directly conflicts with escaping poverty. And no, I'm not saying EVERYONE who's in these communities feels this way, but the culture is so prevalent.
Violence, partying, criminal behavior, and intolerance are toxic values. Also, we have lack of values that impede progress like not treating unwanted pregnancy with high seriousness, lack of financial responsibility, as well as lack of emphasis on education. Many of these directly conflict with things necessary to escape poverty - graduate high school, not get married or have children until at least 21, and work a full time job.
In my experience, violence is heavily praised among minorities, especially for young men. I know, the US has a violence glorification issue in general, and many will say, “well what about the US? They fight so many wars.” Guess what?. We are the US, and comparing demographics to nation seems a bit odd. It’s better to compare by socio-economic status. And for those in poverty, there are much higher rates of violence. In fact, it’s one of the greatest predictors of homicide.
When you can’t provide for yourself or your family, the only bit of “honor” is asserted with violence. It is frustrating, because when you have a job, education or even children, you can’t entertain these people’s “disses”.
Many people here love to fight. In high school, I remember there being a fight nearly (if not) every week, and gang fights breaking out almost every month. Everyone loves to settle conflicts with violence, and I couldn’t escape it at home nor at school for a long time. There was a study that said Chicago had almost the same amount of deaths as Iraq, and instead of being ashamed, people in Chicago call it “Chiraq” with pride.
Another issue plaguing us is gangs. Latinos are the highest demographic of gang members, followed by black people. I know many people, especially young boys, who looked up to gangs. When so many of us are raised by single mothers, and most teachers are female, it’s no wonder why young boys seek hyper masculine role models. I’m lucky that none of my family ever became gang members. However, we’re unlucky because they’re often mistaken, and I as well when I dress like a tomboy. We have had gangs cause property damage on our homes, cars, and even jump/attack us. When you live in a community where every color with black represents a different gang, it’s hard to avoid them.
Criminal behavior is also praised. I can’t count how many people “brag” about going to jail, fighting, stealing, or vandalizing property.
I have been victim of theft many times before. I’ve had people break into my house and steal. I also had my car broken into many times. I even got a car alarm system, but it didn’t help. One night, to “taunt” me, the car thieves left the hood open with the deactivated alarm and stole parts from my car. I often hear that “rich people steal” from poor people like me, but in my experience, it’s poor people stealing from me.
Glorification of substance use and partying is another issue. I personally am NOT in favor of prohibition, and I prefer if everything were legal. HOWEVER, when you are in poverty, you should not waste money on drugs or alcohol. I know many people who say “Who cares? It’s their money.” Many of us are on government assistance, so no, it’s not fully our money. Then you can say “so? Weed is only $5 a bag?” Well, to this day, I haven’t found someone who only smokes once a week, and only a $5 bag. Even if we did find someone who only smoked a $5 bag a week, that’s $260/year. If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, congrats, you’re probably not in poverty. But for many, it’s about a whole week’s pay. And this is at a conservative estimate assuming that they’re ONLY spending $5/week. This doesn’t even factor in alcohol and partying, which many poor people glorify. It’s in “hood” classic movies like Scarface, in our music - especially rap, trap and reggaeton.
We also have an issue with intolerance. As I stated in a previous take, minorities can also be pretty tribal (that leads to racism, colorism, etc). I always wondered this, but we criticize white people a lot, but then are upset that they have better results than us. An example is we “joke” about white people being older parents, and then wonder why they have more money. Another thing we criticize is white people calling the cops for everything. I can understand the frustration, but at the same time, we can’t complain when crimes aren’t being solved if we aren’t reporting them.
Another form of intolerance is a disrespect for police. Yes, we are taught and it is reinforced to not trust police. We also have this “no snitch” rule, and “snitches get stitches” mantra, that is damaging. Again, we can’t complain that police are ineffective, yet refuse to assist them. This just empowers gangs and other criminals to continuously destroy our communities because they know we won’t seek help from police.
And now these aren’t necessarily values, but more lack of. One of those is not avoiding unwanted pregnancy. I honestly can’t count how many people I know who wanted either to be a teen mother, a single mother, or a parent despite not being financially ready and it baffles me. Latinos and black people have higher rates of single parenthood and teen pregnancy, and I do not want to continue that path. We are also less likely to use contraception and especially more effective forms of contraception, despite health centers like Planned Parenthood, many hospitals, clinics and even schools offering them for FREE.
This offends many people, but aside from widows and rape victims (though even rape victims have more choice), single parenthood is a choice. I know many people love to say “well, my only other option was to stay with someone abusive. You want that?” No. Of course not, but you had other choices, like not having children with a bad partner. Single parenthood, specifically an absent father, is one of the worst things you can do to your children. They have higher rates of crime, violence, substance abuse, suicide, low self esteem, depression, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, and even higher rates of obesity!
Let’s face it, most partners you choose in your teens and early 20s are probably not of high character or won’t last, so you definitely should do everything to avoid having kids with them.
I know someone will say, “why are you blaming single moms? What about deadbeat and abusive dads?” Yes, they’re an issue too. And this is controversial, but I believe that the responsibility falls more on the woman. Here’s why, the fetus will be in her body. In no state that I’m aware of can a man force a woman to abort or prevent her from aborting. Even in the states that limit abortion, there’s always contraception and adoption. Many states allow the woman to put the child for adoption without the father’s consent. Also, in the case of deadbeat or abusive dads, it’s much easier for a man to be prevented access to a child than the woman. A mother can choose to not let the father in the kid’s lives, and if he’s abusive, that’s good. But sometimes, the father isn’t, and there are bitter babymama’s who don’t want the father present out of pettiness. And she has the law on her side in nearly all states to enforce this.
Another issue is most poor people, including myself, lack financial responsibility and discipline. Personally, I never really budgeted my money. Now, I’m trying to learn. Almost no one I know budgets their money. Tax season is here, and I get so frustrated seeing poor people making ridiculous or extravagant purchases with their refund. Buying things like new cars, high brand purses (like MK, Coach), Jordans, etc. I’m not saying that poor people can’t have nice things, but we need to prioritize. We can’t complain that our child is failing, and instead of getting them a tutor, we spend $300 on a pair of shoes or purse.
Black people are 6x more likely to buy a Mercedes than white people. Black and white people smoke weed at roughly the same rates, while black people have lower income on average. SNAP recipients are slightly more likely than non SNAP recipients to spend money on soft drinks which is highly irresponsible (since it has nearly no nutritional value and in fact adds to obesity and other health risks). We are bad with money!
Another lack of value I see is there is not much emphasis on education. Yes, we do think education is important, but not enough. We can see this with more Latinos and black youth dropping out of high school. But we must do our best to graduate high school to get out of poverty!
I know the struggle, my mother wasn’t working when I was in high school and I had to work full time while being in school full time. It was stressful, especially since I was head of household setting up appointments, buying groceries, etc.. I still graduated with good grades. You can either make solutions or make excuses.
There are many free GED programs, free adult education and training programs like WIOA, YEAR UP, IC Stars, and others. I told many people about them, but they seem uninterested. Some even said they don’t want to because they don’t want to lose their government benefits. Also, many parents I know do their best to provide so their child can focus on school, and it always frustrates me when the children instead choose to join gangs, sell drugs, or even just work a job that pays slightly more than minimum wage instead of taking advantage of their parent helping them.
Again, I apologize for such a long read. So who’s keeping us poor? I do think external factors like welfare and prison reform can help us out of poverty. But ultimately, we are keeping ourselves and each other poor. It does not matter how much the government tries to deter us from committing crimes and fix the prison system if we celebrate violence, drug dealing and other behaviors that’ll put us in jail. It doesn’t matter if they create Affirmative Action to help us into jobs and school; government assistance for kids we can’t provide for; scholarships, loans and grants for education and minority businesses if we continue not valuing education, the importance of the nuclear family and financial responsibility. We are seeing that you cannot legislate community values. It’s less time consuming, less invasive, and less costly for cultures to change laws rather than the other way around. We need to stop making excuses for our mistakes. We need to take responsibility, but unfortunately so many well intentioned people enable us, and we can’t fix problems if we don’t even acknowledge they exist.
It’s difficult for many of us to admit this, but until we do, we will continue blaming others while we ask the government for more help and handouts and expect them to fix it for us as our communities crumble. Aside from children, the disabled, and to a lesser extent the elderly, poverty is a choice. Or rather, it is a consequence of very bad choices we make.