Why the Left Isn't Talking About Rural American Poverty
Publisher: In These Times
Date Written: 22/10/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX18219
Within the popular American conscience there are two favoured focal points for discussing the problem of poverty. The first is within the urban, inner city context and the second is the poverty of the Global South: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the rest of the developing world. What seldom gets talked about -- and when it is, often with irreverent humor and contempt -- is the poverty of rural America, particularly rural white America: Appalachia, the Ozarks, the Mississippi Delta, the Dakotas, the Rio Grande Valley, the Cotton Belt. So why is the poverty of rural America largely unexamined, even avoided?
This popular association between rural American poverty and whiteness is key to understanding why the media, and liberal America as a whole, doesnt talk about rural American poverty. While black poverty in the United States is attributed to the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, housing discrimination, incarceration, and other forms of institutionalized racism, we have no national narrative that explains white poverty. As a result, there is an implicit belief that whites -- who have benefited from all of the advantages that come with being white -- don't have a good reason to be poor. In other words, that when whites live in poverty, it is their fault, or even their choice.
"For better or worse," says Pruitt, "when we talk about poverty, we focus on black poverty, and we focus on Hispanic poverty. We've collapsed our nations poverty problem into our nations racism problem and it leads us to turn a blind eye to rural poverty."