Viral Humans Of New York Post Nails What's Wrong With Our View Of Poverty

by Maria Guido
Image via Facebook/ Humans of New York

Humans Of New York post nails what’s wrong with our view of poverty

After the presidential election was decided, Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York decided to turn his lens on a different place rather than the usual New York City streets: Macomb County, Michigan.

“Macomb County has made a lot of news lately. A northern suburb of Detroit, the county is largely ‘blue collar’ and its economy is heavily dependent upon the auto industry,” Stanton writes in a pinned post on the HONY Facebook page. “Last week Macomb County voted decisively for Donald Trump. It was the first time in almost thirty years that a Republican presidential candidate has carried Michigan.”

In what is presumably an attempt to understand what shifted amongst the voters in Michigan, Stanton is speaking with residents, giving them a platform to describe their struggles.

One particular story is going viral today, because its message is touching so many. How many of us grew up with parents telling us the importance of “pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps?” How many have heard the common refrain, “Don’t have kids you can’t afford!” How many of us are hardwired to believe that no matter what your circumstances, if you work hard you can rise above them?

It’s optimistic, but in today’s economy — far from true.

“I grew up in the suburbs. I used to think that I could write a prescription for a poor man: ‘Get a job, save your money, pull yourself up by the bootstraps.’ I don’t believe that anymore,” begins the post.”I was ignorant to the experiences of poor people.”

“I’d invite anyone to come and meet the people who live in this neighborhood. Right now we are surrounded by working poor people. These are the people who sell your tools at Sears, and fix your roofs, and take care of your parents, and mow your lawns, and serve your meals. They’re not getting a living wage.”

Have you thought about what exactly it is that people are living off of now? Census stats show the median household income in 2012 was no higher than it was 25 years ago — and those numbers haven’t changed much in the last few years, either. But that hasn’t stopped the prices of necessities from soaring.

“There’s no money left to save. There’s nothing left if they get sick. Nothing left if their car breaks down. And God forbid they make a mistake, because there’s nothing left to pay fines or fees. When you’re down here, the system will continue to kick dirt in your face. You can’t pull yourself up when there’s nothing to grab onto. We aren’t paying our brothers and sisters enough to live. We want them to serve us, but we aren’t serving them.”

You can’t blame people for wanting change. A billionaire promising a shake-up of the status quo is definitely change. But we’ll see how far his promises get the working poor in struggling communities. We have to see each other of deserving of help. We have to. More people are struggling than ever before, and we can’t continue to let each other down by believing we’re so different from each other. We’re not.

We all want to provide for our families and do the best we can. We’re not so different, and if you ever find yourself thinking, “they just need to work harder,” just stop for a moment and be very thankful that you don’t know what it’s like to work hard and struggle for every, damn thing you have — and still never have enough.