Nov 26, 2012 @ 1:19 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 6 Comments
America has a new Mayor. This title was once held by Rudy Guiliani, but he has been eclipsed by Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker. Booker is by far everyone’s favorite do-gooder, statesman, and superhero. He has been called Superman, and quite frankly that title isn’t the least bit hyperbolic. The man saved his neighbor from a burning building, shoveled snow for his constituents, and during the summer of 1999 went on a 10-day hunger strike to highlight the drug issues in Newark. Booker has also lived in Newark’s worst housing projects as Mayor of the city. The most impressive tidbit for me is that he does all this while managing a burgeoning Twitter account (Booker has over a million followers, and he talks to them). He is a Rhodes Scholar, holds a law degree from Yale, and played football for Stanford. This dude is legit, not to mention he has a flourishing career and is very handsome. With all those awesome accolades to his credit, when Mayor Booker stated that he was going to live on food stamps for a week it made me very uncomfortable initially, and later the more I thought about it, I was disgusted.
The number of Americans living in poverty is 46.2 million, and 21.5% of which are children. Currently, the number of people on food stamps is 46.6 million. The majority of people who are on food stamps are part of the working poor. For e.g. at everyone’s favorite modern day plantation Walmart, 80% of workers are on food stamps. A family of three that has income of less than $15,030 has just won an all expense paid trip to living below the poverty line. The usage of food stamps is about food insecurity, and food insecurity is precipitated by poverty. In order to qualify for food stamps one’s entire financials, or lack thereof, must be taken into account such as income, rent, mortgage costs, and bills.
Being poor and not being able to eat is not a joke, a fad, or a hipster costume that one can just put on and take off at whim. It’s not something you can do for a week, it is not a diet or a fast. Poverty is real. Those who suffer from poverty must also deal with the assigned societal pathology that comes along with it. There is an assumption that the poor don’t work, don’t value money, and use their food stamps to buy illicit drugs, and are blamed for whatever moral decays of society that people feel like attaching. The implication of poverty is pervasive and reaches depths that only one stricken with poverty can understand.
I understand wanting to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, but you also want to be sensitive to your neighbor’s plight and not come off as voyeuristic. This is why I am both disgusted, and shocked than an educated man like Booker couldn’t resist resorting to a poverty bet in order to prove his point that he empathizes with the poor. A week on food stamps ain’t nothing. The national average of food stamps is $21 a month which equates to $3 a day. I’d like to see Booker try living on food stamps for a month. I’d like to see Booker at the end of the month try to negotiate real life decisions that many food insecure people, who also live in food deserts, have to face making real life decisions about how they’re going to eat. Then maybe Booker’s experiment would be worth the Twitter hoopla. Try living to live on food stamps for a month when you can’t buy toiletries, cleaning products, or even a hot sandwich from the deli. Poverty chips away at your soul and makes it hard to smile genuinely. These are nuances that will be lost on Mayor Booker. In true Booker form he will be live tweeting his appropriation of the poor with his nifty hashtag #SNAPchallenge (SNAP is the official name of food stamps which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
The same way appropriating someone else’s culture, religion, or spiritual artifact isn’t okay, neither is appropriating their narrative. If you want to help the poor, Mr. Booker, do so by lobbying for them and championing their cause the same way you did when you were on Meet The Press defending Bain Capital and private equity firms. The dubious honor of the negro please award goes to Cory Booker for appropriating poverty!
Categories: Mind Over Chatter