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Poverty, Racism, and (Un)Consciousness in the U.S. by Paul C. Gorski - gorski@EdChange.org Introductory Stuff: Who Said It?

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Poverty, Racism, and (Un)Consciousness in the U.S.

by Paul C. Gorski - gorski@EdChange.org


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Introductory Stuff:Who Said It?

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”


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Introductory Stuff:Who Said It?

“…we commit ourselves to…address creatively and courageously the complex causes of poverty.”


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Introductory Stuff:Who We Are

  • Who’s in the room?

  • My background and lens


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Introductory Stuff:Starting Assumptions

  • Low-income people bear the brunt of almost every imaginable social ill in the U.S.

  • All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserve access to basic human rights

  • Inequities in the U.S. (and globally) mean that all people don’t have this access


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Gross Inequities

Compared with low-poverty U.S. schools, high-poverty U.S. schools have:

  • More teachers teaching in areas outside their certification subjects;

  • More serious teacher turnover problems;

  • More teacher vacancies;

  • Larger numbers of substitute teachers;


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Gross Inequities (cont’d)

  • More dirty or inoperative bathrooms;

  • More evidence of vermin such as cockroaches and rats;

  • Insufficient classroom materials

  • Less rigorous curricula;

  • Fewer experienced teachers;

  • Lower teacher salaries;

  • Larger class sizes; and

  • Less funding.


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Gross Inequities

Barton, P.E. (2004). Why does the gap persist? Educational Leadership 62(3), 8-13.

Barton, P.E. (2003). Parsing the achievement gap: Baselines for tracking progress. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Carey, K. (2005). The funding gap 2004: Many states still shortchange low-income and minority students. Washington, D.C.: The Education Trust.

National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2004). Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education: A two-tiered education system. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Rank, M.R. (2004). One nation, underprivileged: Why American poverty affects us all. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


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Introductory Stuff: The Agenda

  • Introductory Stuff (in progress)

  • The Big Picture: Ten Chairs

  • Key Information & Concepts

  • Where We Go Wrong

  • Tenets of Race-Conscious Anti-Poverty Activism


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Part II:

The Big Picture:

Ten Chairs


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The Big Picture

Point of Reflection:

What would you describe as your socioeconomic status?


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The Big Picture

Point of Reflection:

Where does the notion of meritocracy come from, and has it ever been true?


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The Big Picture

Point of Reflection:

Is poverty an individual experience or, like racism, a systemic condition?

And what does this mean for how we tackle poverty and racism?


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Part III

Informing Ourselves:

Key Information & Concepts


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Key Information

  • A majority of low-income people in the U.S. are white.

  • However, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinas/os, and Asian Americans are much more likely to be low-income than white people.


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Key Information

3. A majority of low-income people live in rural, rather than urban, areas.

4. However, a growing number of low-income people are moving to suburban areas due to gentrification.


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Key Concepts

  • The ‘Culture of Poverty’

  • Deficit Theory

  • The “Undeserving” Poor

    The process built on these concepts socializes us into complicity.


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Key Concept:Capitalist Hegemony

  • Defining “hegemony”

  • History of capitalist hegemony (and defining communism and socialism as the enemy)

  • Importance of hegemony to understanding how we understand poverty

  • Consumer culture, meritocracy


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Key Concept:The ‘Culture of Poverty’

  • What is it? (See hidden rules quizzes.)

  • Who made it up?

  • What the research says

  • Why it’s dangerous


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Key Concept:The ‘Deficit Theory’

  • Two Components

  • Example: “Welfare Mothers”

  • Why it’s dangerous

  • Who, or what, needs to be “fixed”?


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Key Concept:The ‘Undeserving Poor’

  • Herbert Gans, The War Against the Poor

  • Deterioration of support for policy

  • “Welfare Reform”


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Socialized for Complicity

  • Consumer Culture (shopping)

  • Myth of Meritocracy

  • Myth of “American Dream”

    • Latter two most devastating to People of Color


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Part VI

Where We Go Wrong


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Where We Go Wrong

Confusing the mitigation of poverty with the elimination of poverty.

- Clothing and housing the poor is necessary, but it is not analogous with ending poverty.


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Where We Go Wrong

Trying to address poverty by “fixing” low-income people.

- We don’t fix racism by “fixing” People of Color, either!


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Where We Go Wrong

Confusing charity with social change movement.

- Ending poverty (like racism) requires systemic changes to an oppressive system—we cannot end poverty or racism without battling that system.


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Where We Go Wrong

Confusing charity with social change movement.

- Ending poverty (like racism) requires systemic changes to an oppressive system—we cannot end poverty or racism without battling that system.


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Where We Go Wrong

Believing that education is the “great equalizer.”

- White men with a graduate degree earn, on average, $80,000 per year. Native American women with a graduate degree earn, on average, $42,000 per year.


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Where We Go Wrong

Assuming it is our job to “save” low-income people or people of color or any other disenfranchised group.

- One might ask, who, exactly, needs saving?


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Where We Go Wrong

Attempting to understand poverty by studying poor people.

- Poverty can be understood only by asking why poverty exists and to whose benefit poverty exists. (Can we understand racism without understanding systems of whiteness?)


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Part VII

Tenets of Race-Conscious Anti-Poverty Action


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Tenets

  • We cannot fight racism or poverty without fighting racism and poverty.

    • Racism can be seen historically as economic exploitation


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Tenets

  • Working class and poor white people often are socialized to believe that working class and poor People of Color, rather than an oppressive economic system, are the source of their hardships.

    • Focusing only on white privilege won’t work. Help them see how they’re exploited economically by the same power structure and how white privilege is their “compensation” for being the buffer.


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Tenets

  • We cannot affect social change by employing the models that are used to socialize us into complicity.

    • We must model a rejection of deficit ideology, of consumer culture, of the myth of meritocracy.


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Tenets

  • Social justice requires us to work with disenfranchised communities.

    • Avoid service programs (or any programs) that do not happen in collaboration with disenfranchised communities.

    • Remember, the key to liberation is for people to decide for themselves their path to liberation.


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Tenets

  • We cannot end oppression through cultural programming.

    • Energies and resources set aside for anti-racism and anti-poverty initiatives never should be spent on “celebrating diversity” or “learning about cultures” programs.

    • Taco Night is fun, but it has nothing to do with racism, except, perhaps, contributing to it.


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Final Thought

Key to Fighting Poverty and Racism:

Consciousness


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Paul C. Gorski

gorski@edchange.org

http://www.EdChange.org


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