The holidays are a time of joy for many. They are when families celebrate being together with loved ones, workplaces honor the accomplishments of employees, and individuals reflect on their personal success. However, this scenario does not apply to everyone.
Slowly, over the last fifteen or so years, there has been a dramatic annual increase in the number of individuals and families living in poverty. Usually, the remedy during this season is to give kindly and generously to those less fortunate. However, the number of those able to give is starting to run thin, and even if those with the largest sums of wealth gave more of it, charity alone will not resolve this epidemic of poverty.
There are many systemic reasons why income and wealth inequality is on the rise. Programs that better an individuals social autonomy, such as education and health treatment programs are getting scaled back across the board. Infrastructural investments in transportation and quality housing developments are at an extreme shortage. The system of compensation for those who work and those who take care of their families is rigged against them. As poverty grows, inequality rises. And as a higher proportion of individuals have less of an impact on their economy, the prospects for there being enough wealth to satisfy the needs of our nations citizens in the future are staggering. Eventually, everyone, even the rich, will be affected by growing economic inequality.
In order to address this growing national problem, everyone must first treat poverty as a collective issue. Attitudes must change to “if this problem is not addressed soon, it will affect me negatively.” We then must agree that selectively giving money to various necessary causes may help in the short run, but in the long run, we as a nation need to address larger scale issues of personal autonomy and finance, such as investing in education, health services, and vocational training, and to work on giving more individuals a long-term financial advantage.
Meanwhile, we must still continue to donate. Charity is a community sacrament: it signifies the capacity of an individual to treat all others with respect and dignity.
Sara Sezun says
Yes, we must invest in housing education, and healthcare, but we must also invest in jobs, as a society. One thing that would help is investing in manufacturing jobs. We need to produce more manufactured goods in this country. It will give jobs to people, and more money will stay in communities.
Jacqueline S. Homan says
Imagine being held back and DENIED jobs for DECADES after escaping from your pimp/traffickers with NO help at all to rebuild your life, because of a prostitution record incurred as a direct result of being trafficked as a homeless and orphaned 13 yr old girl—on top of having to face people with broken/missing/visibly decayed teeth after a john knocked some of them out when you were only 15—and then for the rest of your life after escaping that hell, never getting a chance for a job, never having any access to medical and dental care, while getting nothing but lectures from judgmental middle class people who blame you for your poverty and dismiss the fact that your inability to succeed is because the deck has been so horribly stacked against you from the get-go.
Now also imagine that you finally get helped from some pro-bono lawyers to get your underaged prostitution record expunged when you’re 47 years old after enduring a lifetime of jobless poverty throughout your entire working age life because of being criminalized and stigmatized for what others did TO you, but now you are “too old” for any employers to hire—even though throughout 30 years of your exited life, you did nothing BUT try to bootstrap your way up out of crushing, life-threatening poverty and total social neglect.
Built “marketable skills” and made up for the education you didn’t get from age 13-17 and went into debt for a degree – while often having to eat from garbage cans and being homeless (without any access to resources to get your basic needs met while you were trying to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” after society made sure you couldn’t even have a pair of boots).
And on top of that, not getting helped by “all these charities out there” that are raking in millions in donations and providing cushy jobs for the professional middle class that comprise their rank and file executive and administrative positions. And being so chronically poor and disadvantaged with unmet medical, dental and other basic economic needs that you have no other options other than either returning to prostitution—which is the ultimate in class and gender inequality and a major human rights violation— or begging on an ongoing basis through personal fundraisers only to get nothing but abuse, personal value judgments, and accusations of being a “scammer” or a “con artist” by privileged, middle/upper class non-survivors and academics who insist that just because you’re white you’re more privileged than non-sex trafficked working class POC who are faring a LOT better than you because at least they got a chance for jobs in their lives and had families to turn to for help, and had SOME access to medical and dental care, and at least had their humanity acknowledged to some degree while you never had ANY of these things.
In America, if you are poor and a POC, you’re “disadvantaged”, but if you’re poor and white, you’re “white trash.”
That has been MY life here in the US as a poor white American woman who is a survivor of child sex trafficking in America: suffering my entire life from chronic jobless poverty because of never getting a chance for a job because of that, suffering without any medical and dental care, and now also facing having to go blind for lack of access to medical treatment for the glaucoma I got diagnosed with in 2010.
Because of being criminalized and stigmatized and rendered unemployable FOR LIFE for being forced to sell sex I could not legally consent to, to grown-ass men old enough to be my father and even grandfather whom I did not know/like who used their money and male privilege to buy rape tickets, in exchange for money I wasn’t even allowed to keep (my pimp took it all, thank you very much!).
As an older lady that never got a chance my whole life for anything no matter how hard I tried after escaping my traffickers at the age of 17 (and with NO help from this very same society that allowed me to get thrown away and trafficked in the first place), NO ONE will hire me as I am now “too old” now that I am getting close to 50 even though my unjustly levied prostitution record as a trafficking victim finally got expunged this past year.
NO ONE is interested in addressing these problems on a systemic level. They dismiss structural inequalities and systemic oppression by leaving it up to “faith-based initiatives” (charities/NGO’s) to help the chronically poor and that “solution” has been a MAJOR epic FAIL.
In the US, NO ONE wants to work on their classism and start thinking about creating an economy and an entire social system founded on universal human rights that works for everybody regardless of age, disability, race or gender.
Most “progressives” don’t even think that America’s poorest of the poor—destitute older white women (many whom are HT survivors like me) that are faring the worst out of everybody—are deserving of basic human rights of food, clean water, shelter, and medical care per the UDHR.
Instead, what passes for a miserable excuse of a political “left” wants to ignore those struggling in hopeless, crushing life-threatening income-less poverty and homelessness (as evidenced by the growing number of “tent cities”), and literally disappear the majority of those living in Third World poverty right here in the US from the public discourse: poor white women over age 40 – some whom are disadvantaged sex trafficking survivors whom NO ONE hired in any jobs, and whom no one is supporting and helping (or even acknowledging).
For years, America’s poorest women and girls (most whom are white) were being trafficked into prostitution and we got nothing but criminalized and stigmatized FOR LIFE, and for those few of us who managed to escape and NOT die at the hands of johns through either brutal murder or fatal incurable STD’s, we never got to be truly free.
Where’s the freedom in being unable to survive (never mind thrive)? Where’s the freedom in starving and being condemned to die from poverty because no one ever gave you a chance for a job in post-Welfare Reform America—all because you were trafficked into prostitution as a homeless 13 year old child, no matter how many hoops you jumped through in order to be “worthy” of a chance?
When women and girls like me would be found chopped up and stuffed in dumpsters, it is made fodder for middle class people’s “entertainment” (Grand Theft Auto video game feature of torturing and killing ‘hookers’ for extra points, ring a bell here?) and we were written off as “No Human Involved” as a matter of standard police procedure.
I lost several friends who died at the hands of johns and/or by deliberate neglect from the same society that threw us all away into the prostitute class in the first place (and then left us no way out) – their white skin didn’t get them any privileges. It didn’t even get them any basic human rights and ensure access to basic needs. Being female and POOR regardless of being white got them trafficked into prostitution and into an early grave.
There is NO “white privilege” in being a destitute white sex trafficking victim/survivor. Especially for those who met an untimely demise and got written off as “No Human Involved” on official police homicide reports. You don’t get more marginalized and dehumanized than that.
And many of our homeless population (the majority whom are white and female and over age 40) have been routinely beaten to death by the police and by spoiled middle class and rich kids just for sport for YEARS ever since Clinton “ended welfare as we know it”, but NO ONE held any protests about that and said that THOSE lives matter.
I don’t need paternalistic, miserly and inadequate charity that fails to lift one out of life-threatening, soul-crushing poverty and put me on my feet. Charity upholds the status quo. Social justice challenges it. And I’m sorry, but for the past 30 years the “progressive” response to poverty for the jobless poor with nothing has been calls for “jobs creation.” You can’t buy a loaf of bread on decades of promises if eventual jobs with no guarantee you’ll ever get one if those jobs ever materialize in your lifetime.
What I need as a poor sex trafficking survivor is SOCIAL JUSTICE. And that includes either the guaranteed right to a living wage job, or a livable guaranteed basic income to live with a little bit of human dignity after suffering an entire lifetime of opportunities denied, stigma, and contempt for being the victim of a crime.
And that crime has a name: HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
That crime also has perpetrators and collaborators: pimps and johns whose money fuels the demand, and a classist, sexist society that decided prostitution is all POOR, unwanted “surplus” women and underaged girls are good for. That the gutter and an early grave was the only place in society we were allowed to have.
The average life expectancy of sex trafficking survivors here in the US is only age 34—because we are literally left to DIE from abject jobless poverty. There are fewer than 100 sex trafficking survivors who are my age (47) and older because of that. No one will hire us in any jobs, and there is NO real social safety net for our demographic of jobless poor who’ve been economically excluded. The average life expectancy for poor women and girls trafficked into prostitution who did NOT manage by sheer dumb luck to escape and exit “the life” is only 26—usually dead at the hands of sexually sadistic men who buy rape tickets (which is exactly what johns are).
America has the blood of its poorest, most marginalized and disprivileged women and kids on its hands. And I refuse to shut up about this shit until society makes a whole hell of a lot of it right to me and the others like me, too. There is no statute of limitations on human rights violations or crimes against humanity.
Justice does not descend from its own pinnacle.
I found something else out. Some businesses received grants to increase hiring. The problem is the agencies that gave the businesses the grants aren’t “babysitting” (i.e. Making sure the businesses do what the money was given to them to do. Hire people) companies after they give them the funds. So what you have is businesses pretending to constantly interview but never actually planning on hiring anyone.
That way they can keep state and government agencies off of their backs. And its ironic because the funds the government ultimately come off of the backs of other Americans anyway. So the poor guys out there looking will in one way or another pay for the job they did not get.