At some point in our lives, most people will need to take off an extended period of time to deal with a family or medical issue. Despite this, only 12% of workers in America receive paid family leave through their jobs. And the lucky ones that do are disproportionately well-educated, high-earning, and male. But what about the rest of us? What happens if we fall ill or have a child?
Kids are, allegedly, getting fatter. But not a single study shows that weight loss works for more than 5% of people, and, by the way, despite fears about obesity, U.S. life expectancy continues to rise. So why are people continuing to fixate on childhood obesity? I think maybe because it’s obscuring a much bigger, scarier issue. This issue being childhood poverty.
Some people may not be discriminatory at heart, but old habits die hard. Unfortunately, offensive language and implications are cultural habits most people acquire without realizing it. Some of these scenarios are what I like to call Accidental ‘-isms.’ But you have the power to shape your conversations. So here are some of my ideas for confronting your next Accidental ‘-ism:’
A lot of Americans are still struggling with extreme poverty – and women are getting the short end of the stick on pretty much all fronts. This year, the Census data revealed that one in seven women live in poverty. These crazy-high numbers of poor American women are nothing new. But they’re still unacceptable. Now go out there and do something about this inequality.
American media has a history of ignoring the marginalized in our society. That’s slowly changing, but there’s still one group that’s often excluded altogether. And that’s America’s poor. Now you may be thinking “But wait! I can think of an example!” And yes. Perhaps you can. But unfortunately, media representation isn’t enough; diverse and accurate media representation is essential.
The United States incarcerates a greater proportion of its population than any country in the world by far. When so few know the full extent of their own rights, even fewer are aware of or do not care about the rights guaranteed to the incarcerated. Despite the supposed “guarantee” of these rights, prisoners all over the U.S. are forced to serve out sentences in inhumane and torturous conditions.
Unfortunately, most of us have heard anti-welfare sentiment many times before, from sources both expected and surprising. Many Americans would rather pretend poverty isn’t an issue in our country. Worse yet, they’d prefer to blame low-income people for their status while supporting plans to dismantle the safety net. So how did we get here as a nation? And what can we do?
In the wake of the tragedies in Boston, we must challenge ourselves to reflect on our reactions to loss of life, violence, and tragedy. Why don’t Americans express the same outrage when similar — and far greater — tragedies occur abroad, or even in our own urban neighborhoods? Perhaps the barometer to our reactions is grounded in racism and xenophobia.
With more cuts on the horizon and alternative sources of funding hard to find, there remain low-income women who don’t have access to any sort of legal aid. So even though we’ve come a long way in building our justice system, we still need to consider the ways in which it fails to serve certain populations. Low-income women often face a lack of legal options in many arenas.
For the first time, this year, my family is the one that will be getting a large refund. And it has really put some things into perspective. I’m a little ashamed at the privileged judging I did in previous tax years of cash-strapped people who get large refunds. Here’s what I wish I’d known before so that I would understand why some people get so much and others get so little back.