Understanding Privilege (Slack) and Poverty (Scarcity) in a Snow Storm

The snow started in South Carolina on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, and when I woke up Thursday, February 13, the snow continued, laying down a powdery blanket on the ice crust formed with several intervening hours of heavy sleet Wednesday afternoon and evening.

This is unusual for the South. The whiteness hides where yards end and the road begins. It is a bit of an unfair characterization—everyone likes to laugh about how wintery weather paralyzes the South—but we are now pretty much frozen in time like the weather outside.

Recently I offered my flat tire story to explain how the conditions of privilege (slack) and poverty (scarcity) are powerful forces that drive human behavior—rejecting the cultural stereotype of poverty being the result of personal laziness.

If you don’t understand the nuance and weight of privilege and poverty, this snow storm should help.

For the salaried class in the U.S.—mostly people in privilege (slack)—when businesses close and the world of work comes to a halt, the response is “paid vacation.”

For the hourly class in the U.S.—mostly people confronted with scarcity or the possibility of scarcity—when businesses close and the world of work comes to a halt, the falling snow is sand in the hour glass of not getting paid. For the working poor and the working class, time is money.

The privileged are allowed to relax, sip coffee, read that book, and post witty stuff on Facebook.

People living in poverty, in scarcity, or on the very edge of scarcity watch the snow and feel their anxieties rise, the stress of knowing money is not being made, the fear that the snow and ice will cause something unexpected and expensive to happen (beyond their control).

So when those of us in privilege feel that electric shock of realization of something needed while we sit trapped in our homes, a realization pressed up against the reality that we cannot leave the house and will simply have to do without, we are being exposed briefly to the condition of living experienced by people in poverty, the working poor, and the working class every minute of their lives.

We have the privilege of imagining what that must be like.

People living in poverty don’t.

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3 thoughts on “Understanding Privilege (Slack) and Poverty (Scarcity) in a Snow Storm

  1. Pingback: Understanding Privilege (Slack) and Poverty (Scarcity) in a Snow Storm – @ THE CHALK FACE
  2. Wow! Excellent way to bring the issue home. You have exposed the underlying assumptions of “salaried” and poverty classes in a way that is accessible and meaningful. This one is going on the faculty bulletin board.

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