Hau Mitakuepi,

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Those words were uttered by the great thinker Mahatma Gandhi from India who was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948, while on his way to address a prayer meeting according to the free encyclopedia online called Wikipedia.

Dr. Donna M. Beegle, author of “See Poverty ... Be The Difference,” tells us:

“The systemic barriers that people in poverty face often manifest themselves in a deep lack of self esteem and a strongly ingrained sense of despair. Faced with what they perceive as impregnable barriers, people in poverty find no one to blame for their failures but themselves. Even if they verbally blame others, to try to save face, they keep internalizing the poverty.

“The predominance of misconceptions, stereotypes, and punitive structures, combined with the harshness of their daily struggles for survival and the elusiveness of any kind of success, create experiences for people in poverty that often lead them to internalize the blame for their poverty situation. This blame creates internal barriers that lower their self-esteem, extinguish their dreams, and further limit their abilities to succeed. This in turn greatly affects their expectations for the future and impedes their hopes to lead a fulfilling and successful life.

“People who live in poverty in the United States have experiences that teach them they are not as good as other people and that they somehow deserve what has happened to them. Because we do not teach about structural causes of poverty, people in poverty often think of themselves as somehow deficient and less  worthy than others who live in more affluent circumstances (Freire, 1970). Growing up in poverty meant that they were often ostracized for their appearance and shamed into believing that if they were born into poverty they had done something to get there. As a result, a natural reaction of people in poverty is to hide their poverty experiences and develop a tough exterior. Shame and poverty go hand in hand.

“Many of the shaming messages come from the interaction of people in poverty with those who are not familiar with their life experiences. Helping professionals, for example, often fail to show the people they serve that they are talented, creative, and worthwhile and that they are just as smart and motivated as middle-class people. They also fail to project the belief that middle-class are not better human beings, but rather they are people who have simply received better opportunities and support.

“Another source of these messages is people who tend to blame the characters of people in poverty when something goes wrong, but blame the situation when the same thing happens to them. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more motives to that person’s behavior.

“Attribution theory explains that people tend to attribute causes for behavior to the situation (or to factors outside themselves) when they understand and empathize with the circumstances of a situation. Alternately, a lack of understanding, typically leads a person to place the cause of the misbehavior on the other person (or to their personality and other internal traits). For example, someone may say, “I got a ticket for speeding, but it was a speed trap.” But when they hear of another person receiving a speeding ticket, they may say, “She is a speeder.” Another example is someone saying, “I was going through a rough time and started drinking too much. I put my family through a lot and needed help.” But when describing another person’s problem with alcohol, that same person might say, “He is an alcoholic and does not really care about his family.”

“Middle-class and wealthy people understand their own circumstances and attribute the causes of their behavior to the situation. However, they tend to attribute the behavior of people in poverty to the personalities of the people rather than the situation. Blaming someone’s personality degrades the person and leaves no hope. It is not helpful since most people see personality as an essential, unchangeable quality. Attributing cause to a situation allows the option of identifying solutions to a problem through changing the situation.”

It is up to all of us, poor and otherwise, to reach out for understanding and pass it on.

And now you know the rez of the story.

Doksha (later) ...

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