Hey, y’all! So due to an early surprise, we were on a little “time-out” with our Race and #RealTalk sessions… we were expecting the tenor-baby to be born in November, about a week from today. But she apparently did not think HALO traveling to ICC inches away from her birth was a wise decision, so she made a 5 week early appearance! It was a bit scary at first for the family, as she spent some extra time in the NICU, but she’s home and happy. Welcome, Imbeni!
But, we are reasonably recovered and back to business– last week, we delved deeper into both the music and our reading. We approached our song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” first acquainting everyone with the lead, then successively learning and pairing other parts. The song’s meaning and connection to our philosophy and metaphor deepens as we focused on each part’s relationship to the melody– as well as their respective challenges for those who would sing them. In fact, there were instances where some of us had assumed we would sing a particular line, only to realize that it was out of our range. The more you listen, the more you know.
This experience led us to our discussion of the first two sections of Under the Affluence. We explored together the statistics which stood out to us the most– child poverty, the definition of poverty in the US, the rate of poverty among Asians in the United States, and America’s vilification of the poor, when sometimes they sometimes exhibit a better value system than our collective culture. But it can be hard to connect to these realities when they are represented primarily in numbers. This issue then led to the question: among these and other facts Wise presents in this book, what personal stories do we each know that represent those facts? How do we connect to people living these realities on a daily basis and incorporate them into our understanding of poverty and financial struggles in our country?
The second section of the book, “Resurrecting Scrooge,” begins by pivoting the perspective of the issues of wealth inequality in the US as Wise observes the legacy of a timeless British author. Charles Dickens is known for his novels of social commentary in which he sheds light on cruelty toward the poor– especially concerning the welfare of children living in poverty. At the beginning of his career, he’d been compelled to write political pamphlets to educate citizens of the harsh realities inflicted upon the lower class– under the assumption of many that it was their personal depravity, not the weight of aristocratic control, which subjected them to such a life. He then came to realize that he could influence more change with stories than with facts. Among the most notable of such works was his novella, A Christmas Carol. And between adaptations and parodies, we all know this narrative. A foul old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. He learns the error of his ways and is transformed to a kinder, more generous man. This work created a vast cultural legacy advocating a focus of humanitarianism and social reconciliation during Christmas, and even now multiple holidays celebrated in the winter season.
So we ask ourselves, how do we learn the narratives which illustrate economic inequality to perhaps influence a similar impact on our communities? How do we tell the story of how racism has not only historically disenfranchised African Americans and other people of color, but also serves to maintain this inequality across race in the broader construct of social class? These stories are everywhere, and so are the stats. But it’s very hard to care about numbers. We need to see how this truth manifests in our reality and those we acknowledge (and perhaps must still learn to) as human beings worthy of dignity, respect, and the freedom America fights for. We need to start listening to these stories, these songs, these people, one another– if peace can truly begin within ourselves and extend to humanity, at large.
We hope many of you who are following this journey through our blogs might also take the time to engage in reading Under the Affluence. However, for a taste of some of these statistics and stories of the racial wealth gap, along with the effects of demonizing attitudes toward those requiring support from assistance programs– have a look at the following links:
What it’s Like to Be on Welfare