My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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being poor

being poor is paying a debt to the rich for being born in their world.

In response to New Orleans, John Scalzi wrote Being Poor, a list of statements about what being poor is like. In turn, hundreds of people left comments to add their experience of being poor. It is a truly humbling entry.

(tx kevin)

Update: Poverty is relative. Given the critiques of Being Poor, i decided to write an extended entry about how poverty is relative and why this article is important even though it’s talking about American poverty where people are economically better off than people elsewhere, but not socially better off.

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6 comments to being poor

  • Being Poor

    A truly stirring list of what Being Poor means, be sure to read the comments as well. Found via danah….

  • Margaret Opine

    Anthropologists are the people who should be able to tell us about “being poor” in the human world, and then, tell us about being poor in America.

    Some people confuse “poverty” with “poor” and “being poor.” ALL OF THESE ARE WORDS, just like the word: “America” and none of them mean exactly the same thing in the HUMAN world over nor IN AMERICA. That’s the “apophasis” in this dialogue. Po’ is an additional word. Po’ (black dialect) is poorer than poor: ‘poor’ just means: no money: “Money ain’t nothin'(nuttin) but an order to the sto'(store), if you ain’t got it, you can’t go.” An 80-year old woman told me that and I could write a thesis on it. She’s right. Money is nothing but a request to go to the store (business) and give it up for something that people without money don’t need to live like food, shelter, water and family. People without money live off the land; they raise food; they build shelter; they nurture family. People without money TRADE!

    IN THE “NO-MONEY” CULTURE where I grew up, FAMILY was gold! Without it one was po’: much poorer than poor, not much “living” and life was not worthwhile. Some people say: “No god but money is poor.” Or that, “Money is the root of all evil.” Others say, “You’re right. You never see a UHaul or an ATM following a hearse. You can’t take it with you.”

    MONEY is a part of conceptualized reality; it does not exist in Nature; it was an idea for betterment that looks, in its fullest fruition, very much like highly organized, sophisticated slavery: the working poor. It’s rather a game, the stakes are high and most of the people participating do not have the ability to change the rules. Katrina taught us all what Nature “feels” about our conceptualized reality.

    I had a subject for my graduate thesis, a black woman, whose mother had 21 children (three sets of twins included).. This woman said they grew up rich. She’s 83 now and still says she grew up rich in Arkansas in early last century because her parents not only fed their own children (no naire-thee-wells in the bunch) they fed a lot of people in them parts: black and white, including white men, during the 30s-40s. The children worked and earned allowances, nickles, dimes, and quarters; these were times when the little black boys in her family had more money in their pockets than some grown white men.

    Some of the white people had one child, some had ten. Some of the people came begging after dark. The harvest would be done and so the fields were free for all the neighbors to come and get what they wanted from what was left. And there would be plenty left but no one would come. The people came and begged for the food the family harvested or the meat they had smoked. This Arkansaw black family lived on 175 acres with a small lake on the property. The parents bought the property outright with money saved from a laundry business and fruit stands in the city — all while raising childfren, mind you. The children worked in the field (often in ironed clothes) and learn to sell stuff like eggs and butter (they had churned). They all turned out to be homeowners in America, even a millionaire; working careers extending into their 80s; yet, because they are black (dark hued) they are considered poor and ignorant . . . in America!

    –Margaret Opine,
    Anthropology grad student completing dissertation on HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS.email: missopine@aol.com

  • Debra Riley

    504408: Hey, does anyone know where I can find a list of gas stations with low prices in my area?

  • leah slaughter

    Its a shame that there are jobs out here that pay minimum wage to people that get up and go to work everyday. How does the government expect them to live or shall I say its obvious how the government wants them to live.

  • Terry Pass

    Its horrible because I am a 19 year old college student that has to pay for collge and pay bills at my house working a job that gives me 30 hours a week and pays me $7.50. My dad is a retired chef (who is also a pastor), mom works for the government and she barely makes enough to pay the rent none the less put food in our house and the govenment considers us middle class. Well if we are middle class then what is lower class? Everyone is worrying about the war, and soliders dying, well ask bush this ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY AMERICA FROM THE FACE OF THE PLANET BY SENDING AMERICANS INTO A DEATH TRAP AND KILLING THE AMERICANS THAT ARE NOT IN THE WAR. I can write sevceral pages about this, but I dont have enough time. And I hope CNN gets hold to this cause I want bush to come to my neighborhood see how many votes he gets then. Last thing that i have to say is I will pray for bush cause he does not know how many poor he has kept poor untill the poor speaks. And consider me as the “shot heard `round the world”

  • anon.

    Being poor is a family of 4 living in a garage.
    Being poor is having to hand wash your clothes to save $4 a day.
    Being poor is getting ride to the ER with my 18 month old and then high fiving my husband when we found out they don’t take the $200 co-pay up front.
    Being poor is terrible and so is making a $10 over the limit and not being able to recieve help because of “excessive earnings”