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Anti-Poverty and Anti-Racism. by Paul C. Gorski - [email protected] What We (Think We) Know. Class and Poverty Awareness Quiz Humility is key Cognitive dissonance is inevitable . Introductory Stuff: The Agenda. Introductory Stuff (in progress) Stereotypes of Low-Income People

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What we think we know
What We (Think We) Know

Class and Poverty Awareness Quiz

  • Humility is key

  • Cognitive dissonance is inevitable

Introductory stuff the agenda
Introductory Stuff: The Agenda

  • Introductory Stuff (in progress)

  • Stereotypes of Low-Income People

  • Reconsidering Key Concepts

  • Shifts of Consciousness

  • Being an Anti-Poverty, Anti-Racism Activist

Part ii

Part II:

Oppressors Are Us:

Stereotypes of Low-Income People

Stereotypers are us
Stereotypers Are Us

  • Pairs: Name all the stereotypes you know about low-income people

    • And note where they come from

Stereotypers are us1
Stereotypers Are Us

Stereotype: Laziness

Ah, but: According to the Economic Policy Institute (2002), poor working adults spend more hours workingper week on average than their wealthier counterparts.

Stereotypers are us2
Stereotypers Are Us

Stereotype: Don’t Value Education

Ah, but: Low-income parents hold the exact same attitudes about education as wealthy parents (Compton-Lilly, 2003; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Leichter, 1978; Varenne & McDermott, 1986).

Stereotypers are us3
Stereotypers Are Us

Stereotype: Substance Abuse

Ah, but: Alcohol abuse is far more prevalent among wealthy people than poor people (Galea, Ahern, Tracy, & Vlahov, 2007). And drug use equally distributed across poor, middle class, and wealthy communities (Saxe, Kadushin, Tighe, Rindskopf, & Beveridge, 2001).

Stereotypers are us4
Stereotypers Are Us

Stereotype: Crime and Violence

Ah, but: Poor people do not commit more crime than wealthy people—they only commit more visible crime. Furthermore, white collar crime results in much greater economic (and life) losses than so-called “violent” crime.

Stereotypers are us5
Stereotypers Are Us

Stereotype: Language-Deficient

Ah, but: Linguists have known for decades that all varieties of English (such as “Black English vernacular” or Appalachian varieties) are equally complex in structure and grammar (Gee, 2004; Hess, 1974; Miller, Cho, & Bracey, 2005).

Stereotypers are us6
Stereotypers Are Us

Where, then, do these stereotypes come from, and whose purposes do they serve?

Part iii

Part III

Revisiting Key Concepts

Key concepts
Key Concepts

  • The ‘Culture of Poverty’

  • Deficit Theory

Key concept the culture of poverty
Key Concept:The ‘Culture of Poverty’

  • The “hidden rules” quiz

  • Where you’ve seen it in

Key concept the deficit theory
Key Concept:The ‘Deficit Theory’

  • Example: Payne’s reflections on Katrina (see handout)

  • Where you’ve seen it

Part iv

Part IV

Shifts of Consciousness

Shift of consciousness 1
Shift of Consciousness #1

  • Must be willing to think critically about those things about which I’ve been taught not to think critically

    • Corporate capitalism

    • Two-party political system

    • Work of IMF and World Bank

Shift of consciousness 2
Shift of Consciousness #2

  • Must acknowledge class-related inequities and oppressions—and understand them as systemic and not just individual acts and practices

    • So “lifting people out of poverty” one by one is not the same thing as eliminating poverty

Shift of consciousness 3
Shift of Consciousness #3

  • Must See Our Socialization

    • How are we socialized to perpetuate the myths?

    • How do we perpetuate myths and oppression even through well-intended work?

Shift of consciousness 4
Shift of Consciousness #4

  • Must challenge stereotypes

    • From youngsters, not-so-youngsters, peers, bosses, whoever…

    • And if you don’t have the information to challenge the stereotypes, then actively seek it out

Shift of consciousness 5
Shift of Consciousness #5

  • Must refuse to mistake socioeconomic class or race with “culture”

    • Poverty and racism are sociopolitical in nature—they’re done to people

Shift of consciousness 6
Shift of Consciousness #6

  • Must be willing to unsettle and discomfort

    • Institutional likeability

    • Who am I trying to keep comfortable, and at whose expense?

Shift of consciousness 7
Shift of Consciousness #7

  • Must be careful to avoid “saviour syndrome” or “messiah mentality” or “missionary mindset”

    • This is an expression of supremacy and privilege

    • Who, exactly, is being “saved” in anti-poverty and anti-racism work?

Shift of consciousness 8
Shift of Consciousness #8

  • Focus on understanding the cultures and forces of power and privilege, not only on the experiences and cultures of the dispossessed “other”

    • We cannot understand class and poverty without understanding the influence of the wealthy elite

Part vii

Part VII

What We Can Do

What we can do fight for low income students
What We Can Do: Fight for Low-Income Students

  • Fight to keep low-income children from being placed unfairly into lower academic tracks.

  • And fight to get them into gifted and talented programs.

  • Or fight educational tracking altogether.

What we can do fight for low income students1
What We Can Do: Fight for Low-Income Students

  • Insist on equitable schooling conditions for all students.

    • Fight what Kozol calls the “savage inequalities” of our schools

What we can do educate about class and poverty
What We Can Do:Educate About Class and Poverty

  • Lack of living wage jobs

  • Dissolution of labor unions

  • Growing wealth gap

  • Corporate control of government and schools

    • Educate toward fixing these injustices rather than “fixing” poor people and people of color

What we can do take back our heroes
What We Can Do:Take Back Our Heroes

  • Resist whitewashing or commercialization of social justice heroes who fought for class equity

    • MLK

    • Helen Keller

    • Mark Twain

    • Black Panthers

What we can do help individuals fight systems
What We Can Do:Help Individuals & Fight Systems

  • If all of our anti-poverty work goes into addressing symptoms rather than the underlying injustices, nothing will change.

  • If all of our work goes into fighting the underlying injustices while ignoring immediate symptoms, people will die.

What we can do self assess
What We Can Do:Self-Assess

  • Consider: Is your work, or that of your organization, moving us closer to an equitable and just society or world, or is it, despite good intentions, sustaining inequity and injustice?

What we can do do informed work
What We Can Do:Do Informed Work

  • Reject the temptation to use popular models (such as Ruby Payne’s) just because they’re popular. Ask why they’re popular. And opt, instead, for models that are based on evidence and proved effectiveness.

What we can do engage low income folks
What We Can Do:Engage Low-Income Folks

  • As we know, the experts are the communities. Avoid the missionary approach by asking what we can do rather doing what we think we ought to do.

  • Work with rather than for.

What we can do learn
What We Can Do:Learn

  • Never stop identifying our own class and race biases. (And yes, you do have them.)

What we can do see and work at intersections
What We Can Do:See and Work at Intersections

  • Environmental Justice & Poverty

  • Environmental Justice & Racism

  • Media Conglomeration & Poverty & Racism

  • Privatization of Schools & Poverty & Racism

  • War & Poverty & Racism (see MLK)

  • Globalization & Poverty & Racism

  • And so on...

What we can do evaluate materials
What We Can Do:Evaluate Materials

  • Make sure your organization’s materials do not stereotype—even if subtly—economically disadvantaged people

Part viii


Stages of Anti-Poverty Activism

(see handout)


“And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.”


“I am a socialist because I believe that socialism will solve the misery of the world — give work to the man who is hungry and idle and at least give to little children the right to be born free.”


“In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.”


“The distinctions separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.”


“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.”


“Who are the oppressors? The few: the King, the capitalist, and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.”

Paul c gorski gorski@edchange org http www edchange org

Paul C. Gorski

[email protected]