Deserving of Poverty

I am convinced it is impossible to select single quotes from this book. I have highlighted almost everything. Honestly, I am caught between posting the entire book and posting nothing but a link to the text and a suggestion that others read for themselves. (sigh)

That said, the following quotes highlight the intersection of race and poverty during the 60s and 70s. THese are media-manipulations and political maneuverings that continue to haunt members of the lower middle and lower classes, to this day.


Thus in the late 1960s and early 1970s, two schools of thought were offered to the general public regarding race, poverty, and the social order. Conservatives argued that poverty was caused not by structural factors related to race and class but rather by culture—particularly black culture.

The “social pathologies” of the poor, particularly street crime, illegal drug use, and delinquency, were redefined by conservatives as having their cause in overly generous relief arrangements. Black “welfare cheats” and their dangerous offspring emerged, for the first time, in the political discourse and media imagery.

The late 1960s and early 1970s marked the dramatic erosion in the belief among working-class whites that the condition of the poor, or those who fail to prosper, was the result of a faulty economic system that needed to be challenged.

They repeatedly raised the issue of welfare, subtly framing it as a contest between hardworking, blue-collar whites and poor blacks who refused to work. The not-so-subtle message to working-class whites was that their tax dollars were going to support special programs for blacks who most certainly did not deserve them.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

2 thoughts on “Deserving of Poverty

  1. I have not read this book although many of my friends have. I can say this however, I remember being a kid (growing up on welfare) and my parents being pissed as hell that welfare recipients were being demonized. My dad would go on rants about the way welfare recipients were being blamed for everything. I can say this for sure, people really have no idea what it is like….you are treated like a piece of scum if people know you are on welfare. I can not comment about being black but can imagine it is much worse. At least some people thought we were ‘deserving’ because my parents are blind.

  2. I had to spend a portion of my childhood on welfare, too. I could tell you some stories about nasty things that were said and done – including public humiliation from school employees (adults) for the ‘crime’ of receiving a free lunch ticket. I’ve had periods where I had to accept it as an adult as well. Hated the experience and the fact, every single time, but it always comes down to simple math – the job doesn’t pay enough to cover rent, never-mind food, healthcare, etc. So, you go begging for help and people kick you in the teeth for the ‘crime’ of asking. Every. Single. Time. The thing that never made sense was the level of anger coming from people who were also poor, yet not poor enough to receive welfare. I point out that we need a living wage and fellow poverty-survivors just flip out, claiming it’s socialist or Communism or some such thing, while continuing to point fingers at people on welfare. That’s like blaming the cause of a war on the civilian refugees, disabled veterans and dead soldiers. People on welfare (or ‘to rich’ to receive it by a small margin) are victims of the financial system, not financial or social terrorists.

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