The Silence of Poverty

The economy we live in is no longer in recession, it’s well entrenched in depression. The division between the “haves” and “have nots” is no longer a crack in the landscape rather it has become a gorge, almost a Grand Canyon. This widening gap is no longer just between the wealthy and the poor. It is between those who make up the middle-class. This gap is now appearing in small communities where many classes of people interact with one another where tensions increase when one group speaks truth to power.

The political becomes very personal when small communities are fractured.

I saw this play out on Facebook earlier this month. A woman was offering a class at a religious organization. She mentioned on Facebook if more individuals didn’t sign up for her class it would be canceled. I commented the cost of the class, the cost of gas, and tolls was too much money. Another person commented that my words were “unnecessary”. I then responded with the comment “poverty is silence.” In this case, the teacher was the person in power and I was the disempowered one, thus silenced by my poverty. I spoke my truth to her. Then I was dropped by the teacher, blocked by her, and banned from her page. The political became very personal.

After the whole escapade took place, I felt marginalized, ostracized, and banned. I felt alone and isolated. I felt my voice wasn’t welcome and I should not attempt to participate with the religious community I have thought of as my home for the last couple years. Tensions have eased somewhat but still I am wary of attending any event related to this group because of this mishap. The teacher has more power than I do by way of allies in the hierarchy of the organization.

I have not been able to attend events with my religious community for months because of the costs associated with attending and traveling. I brought this up to a person in a leadership role when I last attended an event in June only to have her shrug off my concerns. However, she told me how financially strapped she is but offered no solutions, no comfort, and did not attempt to ease my feelings of “otherness”.

This religious group collects food for the food bank and occasionally does drives to “help the poor.” But the poor have no face, no name. They are “other”. Poor people do not appear to be members of the organizations. If they are, they are silent. Being poor isn’t a crime or anything to be ashamed of but society makes us feel like there is. And the thing about poverty is this: there is always someone more poor than you. Judgments are made all the time about how poor someone appears to be. I speak about the lack of money in my life. I speak about my inability to find a job. I point out inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and double standards. And because I use my voice, I have been left shunned, banned, and isolated.

Canyons do not appear overnight. They take place slowly. A crack slowly widens to become a gorge. Individuals will find themselves on one side or the other while large groups fall in. If ever there was a time for communities to band together the time is now. Bridges need to be built for where there is no repairing the canyon. Keeping the canyon from forming, though, that is the priority. We can keep those canyons from forming by welcoming everyone regardless of the amount they can pay and paying special attention to transportation costs.

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2 thoughts on “The Silence of Poverty

  1. Sarenth

    It is deeply wrong that you, or anyone, is ostracized from a community, especially when it is a religious community that bills itself as helping the poor and those in need. Charity, as the old saw goes, begins at home. I am lucky in that the groups I am involved in understand what it is to be strapped, and make accommodations as they can.

    It is glaringly obvious that we are in a depression, and anyone that I see clinging to the ‘we’re climbing out a recession’ narrative is either profiting in it or deluding themselves. You don’t have gaps between haves and have-nots, or even between fellow have-nots like this, and it is not a depression. Half the population of college graduates cannot find work. Half the population ages 18-26 cannot find work. Eventually our parents’ backs will all break under our strain, as will the floundering economy with the poor work force, both in terms of opportunities and training, that we are facing.

    Sometimes all that keeps me going is my religious community. I know that online is not substitute for meat-space, but I hope that knowing that someone out there gets it, is in your corner and rooting for you, gives you a measure of hope.

    Gods bless.

  2. Michelle Hill

    What I found most interesting about the whole episode was the silence. No one acknowledged me after the episode occurred. No one has reached out to me despite my repeated attempts to work on this class issue. Instead I’ve been ignored.

    If I remained silent I’m sure I would be welcome. But I spoke up — repeatedly! — and nothing has changed except my attendance. Or lack there of to be accurate. Am I missed? I have no idea. No one has reached out to me.

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