Here’s a piece I wrote for The Well Written Woman concerning the neglect of a huge sports organization when its players decide to hurt other human beings. Is this just a witch hunt against the NFL as some have said, or has breeding violent men become a cottage industry? Give me your thoughts.
Sometimes, these great ladies over at #thewellwrittenwoman publish stuff I write. This week, I write about my personal experience with domestic violence. Later this week I’ll take on the #rayrice #nfl issue. In the meantime check out my most recent piece concerning domestic violence.
What is it like to be poor? That’s a subject I think more people should investigate as I’ve heard so many disparaging comments made about those who aren’t as well off financially as others. Funny though, people seem to believe that because they have a new car, the largest cable package on the market, or some fancy electronic device this somehow points to the fact they are light-years ahead of those who need government assistance. I’m here to tell you, folks, you may not be as far ahead as you think. Moreover, if you ever hit the ranks of those who are forced to, as so many wrongfully phrase it, “apply for entitlements,” you will find that the word “discrimination” is now part of your vocabulary—and here’s a shocker for you—even if you’re white.
If you’re poor and can’t afford to pay your bills on time, an employer can deny you a job as they may conduct a background check, including a credit check, to decide if you are reliable enough to hire. Landlords can refuse to rent to someone with shoddy credit history. Getting a credit card is out of the question, so if your car breaks down, you might be out of luck in getting it repaired.
The poorer you are the more likely it is you might land in jail for debts you cannot resolve as well. While we do not have “debtors jail” proper anymore, we still have what is known as the Writ of Attachment.
Let’s say you are forced to go to the emergency room, and without insurance, are left with a hefty bill you cannot pay. Once that bill hits the hands of a collection agency, they will drag you into court to try to resolve the issue. Credit agents will use all means possible to drag money out of debtors, and many people just agree to payments. If those payments are not made, the agency will drag the person back to court, and here’s a huge problem.
Poor people are often forced to move faster than the mail system can catch up with them. So sure, the court mails out a notice, and often an officer will sometimes serve a notice to appear, but if the person can’t be found, the notice can’t be delivered. It might be left with a relative or neighbor, but not always. The court date comes, and the person does not appear because they had no way of knowing they’d been served. The court can then issue a Writ of Attachment, which calls for the arrest of the individual. All it takes is to get pulled over for a busted tail light, and BAM! you find yourself in handcuffs, and often without money for the hefty bond a Writ usually carries. (Generally the cost of the bill you owe.)
These people are not criminals. They’re simply unable to pay a bill. Now, with not only being a poor, but an arrest record to boot, they’re definitely going to be discriminated against. No one cares to hear why they went to jail. They just know they don’t hire, house, or educate criminals. The world of opportunities they once had shrink before their eyes as being poor becomes a criminal offense.
Of course, men of color experience this disparity two-fold with the intersection of both ethnicity and class, and women of color experience this three times over where gender, ethnicity, and class meet. Nonetheless, white folks, when I say we need to end discrimination, the new Jim Crow laws so many people of color are experiencing, you better open your eyes because if you’re poor, they will affect you, too.
See, we’re big on covering our eyes to issues with which we have no personal experience, but I’m betting most of you out there are not eternally wealthy. You probably have not amassed the kind of wealth that can’t go away. Sure, you might have a nice car, a home, and maybe even a boat, but I’m betting you’re so far in debt that you’re no more than a paycheck or two—maybe a month or two’s wages from living in poverty.
It doesn’t take much, really. A heart attack. One nasty divorce. A death. Maybe a natural disaster. Life changes easier than we might ever believe. I know folks who, in 2008, went from massive mortgages and expensive car payments to $400 per month rentals, used cars, applying for food assistance, and bankruptcy court. They waved good-bye to six figures and tried to find ways to live on unemployment. Some of them still haven’t fully recovered six years later. Most of them were college educated and had never broken the law. Nearly all of them have ended up in court being sued for monies owed to some creditor.
Humiliation is bad enough. Being discriminated against for something beyond your own control is mind breaking. In fact, I know of at least one man who committed suicide because he lost everything, couldn’t find help, and was denied employment because he was a “theft risk” due to his dwindling credit score. He had only experienced this discrimination for a small portion of his life. I cannot imagine the psychological effect on those who experience discrimination for the entirety of their lives.
If we ever think discrimination only happens to people who aren’t like us, we should look around us at everyone who is being treated poorly. No one should face discrimination for things of which they have no control—not the color of their skin, not their gender, not their sexual orientation, not physical and mental disabilities, and not the size of their wallets.
Now more than ever, it’s important that we all stand together. It’s time we quit looking for ways to differentiate ourselves from others, and realize that most of us, 99% probably, are very much alike. We all face similar issues, just in different ways. We all struggle to make it through life, and the best way to win that struggle is by helping, rather than fighting, one another. Holding one person down to get a head up helps no one, because while you’re busy trying to hold that person under you, someone else is plotting your demise for their own benefit, too. You’re not safe in a world where it’s acceptable to criminalize others for things which they do not control. First class passengers may watch as the poorer passengers below struggle and drown, but they should remember as they watch idly by, they will regret their inaction as the ship slips under the sea.
I talk a lot about people, equality, and justice. Oftentimes it probably seems as though I am on the attack of those whose ways of life I abhor. This isn’t really the truth, though.
More often than not I think it’s important to start any conversation by believing that people just do the best they can. People can definitely be a product of their environment. If they are taught to fear and hate those different from them or different ways of life, they often drag that fear and hate along into adulthood like some demented, yet comforting, teddy bear. It’s a sad yet true fact of being human. Thankfully, we can all change.
Some of us expand our horizons through exploring other cultures, and we appreciate the diversity of the world’s population. For some, we have learned that for as much as we know about our own cultures, there is still much more to know. We can be as ignorant of our own cultures, especially of our own faults, as we are of those we’ve never experienced. There is something magical that happens when we open ourselves to learn about other peoples and cultures. Most generally, we learn something about ourselves and our cultures, too. It’s this learning process that helps as grow as human beings, and therefore helps our society blossom into a welcoming place for everyone, no matter our differences.
There are those who will, unfortunately, never appreciate the process by which we learn. It is to these folks I most often reach out. Perhaps it’s not my place, and maybe I speak out of turn, but I want them to find the joy in diversity many of the rest of us share. It’s a thankless activity, usually. More often than not I’m met with people telling me they feel sorry for me and “my kind”, or what’s worse, their anger.
No matter if they’re angry or pity my supposed ignorance, the constant that I find is their fear showing through. More times than not, they express fear of violence, becoming the minority, or of an unwanted change in their way of life, even when they articulate those fears via angry words. This speaks to me that change is still possible, and it’s why I work to unravel the lies these folks have been taught to believe so they won’t have to be afraid any longer. It’s not some anger coming from nowhere. It’s fear, and fear can be erased through education.
A great many of us know that enemies are often created. Sometimes powerful people, for fear of losing the control they enjoy, participate in something called “othering”—the creation of a group of people who are so different from us that we must beware of them. In some instances they go on to demonize those people making them “demonic others”. No matter the case, the ‘others’ are created by muddying the water surrounding their lives and cultures. They are formed by false stereotypes and blatant lies. Bad science has even reared its ugly head in the world of demon creation. It’s hard to break these beliefs, which have come from the mouths of “authorities,” but we have no choice—they simply must be broken if we are to live harmoniously sans societal collapse.
Frequently, those with whom I am engaged in this conversation are white males. They are those people who, even though they are projected to be the minority ethnic group, will still retain their power. Their money, as well as their social and political control, will not fade away because a few more people immigrated to the US.
However, this is seemingly their fear. Of course, they may have to share some of the clout they’ve long held, but no one—I repeat—NO ONE is trying to make them into slaves. I suppose if I was a filthy rich white man I might fear this just a little. After all, it would only serve them right, but it’s just not the agenda.
All anyone wants is a good life. People of color simply want equality and justice. They want to enjoy the same level of political representation, job equality, educational opportunities, and quality of life as every white man and woman in the US. I don’t believe that is too much to ask.
It’s difficult to reverse the lessons a grandfather passed on to his descendants, though. They take that family legacy of fear and hate to heart, and they attack people like me to defend it. It doesn’t help that men like Rush Limbaugh perpetuate hate and fear every day, but hey, that’s life.
Sometimes the response I receive leaves me in tears. Other times I break through, if even slightly, to help foster the understanding that white people need not fear different ethnicities and cultures. I’m white, and I live without fear…of that anyway. Spiders and mice still freak me out. Sorry.
No matter the hate I receive, I still want to do this. It’s my duty as a human being, I think, to help bring peace to the world. So, it’s what I’ll keep doing. I’m just thankful for the great friends I’ve had who have shown me my own shortcomings so I could correct those. Also, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn about and appreciate the many cultures of which I’ve learned. Life is so diverse. It’s never boring, but for all our differences, we’re all more alike than we might have ever believed.