The Work to Be Done This Labor Day

On Labor Day 2018, it’s hard to maintain hope. Many will labor on Labor Day (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Growing up in a blue-collar union household, working on holidays was considered a boon). Many labor in worse conditions than our parents and grandparents. The Gig Economy The gig economy leaves millions on their own: So-called independent contractors assume all the risks of labor. Employers, most of whom are never met in person, reap the benefits. Workers drive, deliver (in my bike-loving city, workers pedal all over with other people’s groceries and take out), teach (in upper-middle-class academia, highly... Read More

They’re Just Like Us: Race and the White Working-Class on Roseanne

On Tuesday, May 29th, ABC Entertainment canceled the reboot of Roseanne after Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, comparing the former Obama advisor to an ape. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey stated, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.” The show debuted in March to huge ratings and a second season was in the works at the time of Barr’s tweet. However, the critical reception of the show had been less warm. In particular, many critics honed in on a specific scene in the reboot as indicative of the show itself. Marginalized Americans as a... Read More

Class, Race and the Trump Administration

A May 2018 report by Philip G. Alston, a U.N. special rapporteur, examines poverty in the United States. The report findings were based on 40 detailed written submissions and Alton’s in-person meetings with government officials at all levels; members of Congress; nonprofit and religious leaders; academics; indigenous people living in poverty in several U.S. states. The report, which also cited a correlation between poverty and race, stated that the country’s “overall policy response has been neglectful at best” for more than five decades. And it concluded that the past year’s Trump Administration policies have accelerated the severity of poverty in... Read More

Thank You for Being on Time

A few months ago, I made an appointment at the low-income clinic to see their therapist. I was hoping to find someone to listen to me – so I could hear my own voice better. The nurse practitioner suggested this as an option since I don’t make much money teaching part time. When I arrived, the therapist came out to greet me. She was dressed in what appeared to be designer attire and had perfect hair that boasted of an expensive cut. She was small and thin and white. Like her, her office was not warm. It looked like they... Read More

Happy Day Before Payday!

While summer 2018 has been a scorcher, the high for February 1st and 2nd made it to 11º in Kari Fisher’s hometown in Minnesota, and single digits reigned during both school days. I got the email from one of my son’s high school teachers while I was teaching and didn’t have a chance to read it until after five when my workday ended. I hurried to pile my nightly grading into bags and dash to meet my son at the public transportation stop just before six. There would be supper to put on, dishes to wash and grading before bed. The... Read More

Poverty Constrains Your Wardrobe – and You

I will always remember December 2013. It was a particularly cold winter, and downtown Los Gatos was in the low 30s. My friend Jane rented a carriage and invited me to come along. I declined because I did not have a jacket. I was too ashamed to tell her why, so she was rightfully angry with me. Now that I can buy myself any winter apparel I want, I realize it wasn’t body shame at being too large to borrow a jacket from any of my friends. It was poverty shame. Why is poverty shameful? I grew up middle-class reading;... Read More

Weighing Every Cost: A Genteel Poverty

I am the youngest of 10 siblings. My dad built a successful plumbing business, bought his own shop and employed a few helpers at the height of his business. He even bought a summer home, a Civil-War-era farm out in the country, which he later sold to pay my sibs’ college tuition. My older sibs attended Catholic high schools and colleges. They did not work and their stylish clothes came from department stores, (which I only learned lately). But by the time I was to enroll in Sacred Heart, the all-girls high school my sisters had attended, my dad’s income... Read More

Why Do You Want to Be Poor?

Growing up poor on Long Island builds character. While trying to balance personal responsibilities with maintaining a GPA high enough to make myself a competitive candidate for scholarships and college admissions, I found that I could make several distinct dinner recipes from just adobo seasoning, week-old produce and recooked meat products. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was necessary. It was reality, and to an extent, it is still my reality. As people like me grow up, we learn to be resourceful. We learn that a needle and thread or some safety pins keep coats and pants intact, watered-down soap and an old toothbrush keep shoes... Read More