Monday, July 8, 2013

Do Poor White People Exist?!? (Revisited)

I found a story about hunger/poverty in rural Tennessee in today's Post interesting. Maybe you will as well.
Here, in the rural hills of Tennessee, is the latest fallout of a recession that officially ended in 2009 but remains without end for so many. More than 1 in 4 children now depend on government food assistance, a record level of need that has increased the federal budget and changed the nature of childhood for the nation’s poor.

First, schools became the country’s biggest soup kitchens, as free and reduced-price lunch programs expanded to include free breakfast, then free snacks and then free backpacks of canned goods sent home for weekends. Now those programs are extending into summer, even though classes stop, in order for children to have a dependable source of food. Some elementary school buildings stay open year-round so cafeterias can serve low-income students. High schools begin summer programs earlier to offer free breakfast.

And late last month came the newest iteration: a school bus retrofitted into a bread truck bouncing along a potholed road near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It parked in a valley of 30 single-wide trailers — some rotting in the sun, others swallowed by weeds and mosquitoes alongside the Nolichucky River. The driver opened his window and listened to the utter silence. “It feels like a ghost town,” he said.
Go read this story, and chime in with your thoughts below.

I hate beating a dead drum here, but while I found this piece to be well written and enthralling, I can't help but compare the tone of the piece with your typical urban poverty story. Here, once again, the concept of personal responsibility is foreign. Unmarried white omen with multiple kids by multiple fathers aren't taken to task for their poor decisions, crime (which is surely a problem) isn't mentioned, and there's a convenient excuse (Obama!) for why these otherwise motivated people find themselves on society's bottom wrung. The people (teens, young mothers, kids, but oddly no grown men) are victims of circumstances beyond their control, not people whose own life decisions landed them where they are. They are humanized in a way poor urban blacks seldom are.

I'm sure some of you think I'm a little paranoid (I am) and insensitive to the people in this story (I'm not), but seriously. It seems like the mainstream media pretends the millions of poor white people in this country don't exist, and only "discovers" them for well written, nuanced pieces like this one. Frankly, although I (obviously) enjoyed reading this excellent piece of longform journalism, I'm getting a little tired of this.

Question: Did you read the entire article? What are your thoughts?

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