Friday, July 1, 2011

Summertime and the livin' is conflicted

Big controversy here in Wisconsin over New Berlin's affordable housing plans. Affordable housing and poverty are two big interests of mine, so I read all the articles carefully. I was fine until I got to the comments on the local paper's story. Now, I realize that people who comment on newpapers on-line are their own special kind of crazy. But blatant mean-spiritedness of the comments shocked me. Who writes that stuff????

I think there is a fundamental disconnect between the reality of poverty and the perception of poverty.

People aren't poor simply because they are lazy or stupid. But it must be awfully convenient to believe that, because then you can probably wash your hands of trying to *do* something to solve the problem.

My "little's" family is going through some unbloggable stuff right now. I can sum it up in two simple words: poverty sucks. Suffice it to say that most of us would have trouble walking a block in the shoes of a family struggling to find a place to live and put food on the table, never mind a mile.

I live in a neighborhood that is statistically both whiter and richer than New Berlin. Affordable housing will come to my neighborhood when pigs fly.

So I struggle internally in the summer, moving frequently between the housing projects and the country club. Note: I am not a member of the country club. I'll join when they offer subsidized memberships for low income families. I refuse to join any organization that won't accept my Little. (See any pigs flying, yet? No, me neither.)

For years, I kept my Little away from neighborhood events. It's just awkward and not that fun for her to be the one and only non-rich-white person in attendance. But maybe that's a mistake. Maybe if people got to know her, they'd learn that she is smart and beautiful and hard-working.

Maybe people are prejudiced against the poor only because they don't have any true friends who are poor?

But how will we ever change that if people (myself included here) segregate ourselves by where we live?