Two recent stories out of New York tell a lot about what’s going on in the U.S. economy. They also force us to examine whether we are going to do something about it or instead whether we will just sit around and have the same stupid, divisive arguments that we usually do.
The first story set a certain segment of young Brooklyn on fire. Called Young, Privileged and on Foodstamps, it was written by a well-educated freelancer who struggles with her lack of financial security. And she’s not alone.
I’ve waited tables whenever I’ve needed to, like when I was three months out of school, jobless, and being considered for a job at Trader Joe’s. After the third interview, the manager called to say I hadn’t been selected. There were 400 applicants for ten positions, he said. Many of them had Master’s degrees or higher. Maybe that’s overeducation, but I can’t say.
She’s also quite aware that hers is not the first generation to face hardship…
I’m not saying this is new. My parents had the same struggles, maybe worse, as twenty-somethings starting a family and a business in the ’80s, facing a recession and a bleaker economy in the mining towns of northern Minnesota.
Her sense of guilt looms large. Here she describes her feelings after being told by a complete stranger — who’s also Caucasian — that she’s an “overeducated white person” who should “just get a job”:
I realized it wasn’t indignation I felt, it was recognition. I agreed with her. That, with my college education and a working-middle-class-family background, I had somehow failed to keep up my end of the deal, and whatever implicit agreement my privilege came with: to work and contribute to society; to feed and take care of myself; to be resourceful and resolved enough to never accept handouts—especially not from the government.
But as Karina describes so well, today’s economic struggles are blowing away our outdated notions of poverty, what it looks like, and who it affects.
[Y]ou don’t need to be toting two kids or living in housing projects to find yourself in need of help with buying groceries.
Brooklyn is Indeed Getting Way Whiter
Brooklyn includes four of the 25 most whitened neighborhoods in the United States over the last ten years, according to numbers crunched by education blogger Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute. By zip code, that makes it the most represented place on the list [...].
Petrilli notes that to map actual gentrification, zip codes aren’t ideal (“because boundaries can change”) and neither is white share of the population (“because you’d really want to look at changes in income levels”), but making use of the data available, it still provides a telling blueprint.
The comments as enlightening as the article, itself. (This is true for both articles, in fact.) “Hipster hate bait,” fumes one. Another commenter, called JKGAL, sums up:
Let’s stop dividing each other by race. Let’s please start working together, especially by not promoting fake and destructive stereotypes – white people are rich, for example, or black kids are dangerous. Phooey. Stupidity. Divide and conquer is how the 1% get ahead. Why don’t we realize that by now?
Here’s my take on it.
The Finance Addict’s Incomplete List of Fake and Destructive Stereotypes
- White people are rich
- Black kids are dangerous
- Poor people somehow deserve to be poor and therefore don’t deserve help with even the bare necessities of life
- Rich people are evil
- People who are upset with today’s extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a few are just jealous, ignorant or both