Flower

A fish story at UNC Greensboro?

Fish Story

by Jacqueline Hawkins

UNC Greensboro, I suspect I was hearing a fish story.  You know the kind.  The fish just gets bigger and bigger and bigger as the story unfolds.

Unfortunately for the teller of this tale, I had experience with the subject matter, so I wasn’t so easily impressed.

An irate girl brought up the case of child poverty, the oft-repeated circumstance of a mother too poor to take care of her offspring.  The obvious answer to poverty is to kill the youngest (i.e., the most invisible) child, right?

I trotted out the toddler, which means I presented a hypothetical 2-year old and asked if poverty would justify killing the toddler.  She avoided the question, stating that she could never take care of a baby because she was poor.

As someone who has lived in relative (not absolute) poverty, I questioned her statement, trying to get a feel what degree of poverty she was experiencing, so I could frame an appropriate response.  “Of course I’m poor!” she said.  “We’re all poor!  We’re poor college students!”

Hmm.  Poor college students.  Was she talking about the college students who drive late-model cars and spend hundreds of dollars each semester on alcohol?

I explained how poverty is a bad justification for killing a child.  Again she attempted to change the subject, “My family is poor! We have debt!”

Ah, the fish has gotten bigger.

I told her that she seemed to be doing pretty well for herself.  She was alive, well-fed, going to an expensive college.  Then I got personal, “As a card-carrying poor person, I don’t take kindly to people telling me that I’d be better off dead.”  To that she exclaimed, “I was homeless!”

Ah, homeless.  She went from a poor college student, to the daughter of parents with debt, to climbing her way out of homelessness.

And yet, despite being homeless at one point or another (maybe), she hated pregnancy resource centers because, “they push anti-choice propaganda!”  Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Was she telling the truth?  If she was truly climbing her way out of homelessness, she was condemning those like her simply because they didn’t have much wealth.  Had she forgotten where she came from so quickly?  Was she really so blinded by her success and potential to succeed that she would callously sentence poor children to death?  Did she not realize that she was stealing their opportunity to follow her example and carve out a life for themselves like she was doing?  Did she not grasp that we poor people, past, present, and future, need to stick together and help each other out?

Or was she telling a tall tale to get her point across?  Was she simply ignorant of the fact that poverty, particularly American poverty, isn’t so bad that those living in it are better off dead?  Was she completely unaware that, in many cases, poverty has helped people build character, mental and emotional stamina, and unique life skills (rags to riches, anyone?)?  Was she, dare I say, a privileged young woman who looked down upon those without and easily sentenced them to death because helping them took too much work?

Jacqueline Hawkins is a CBR Project Director and a regular FAB contributor.

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