This Is Why Poor People Can (And Should) Have Nice Things

February 2, 2016 by Carmen Rios

"The myth that poor people shouldn’t, and can’t, have “nice things” – and that having those things invalidates their experiences – is all around us. 

It’s deeply ingrained in us that there are only two very polarized ways to exist: to be comfortable or to have absolutely nothing. 

Having anything deemed a “luxury” disqualifies you from talking about poverty, or relying on social support, or asking for help – even if those so-called “luxuries” are necessities like kitchen appliances for making and preserving and storing food, mobile technologies that enable us to stay afloat in the modern world, and apparel that  about our situation.

And that’s bullshit.

The longer we force people to suffer as much as possible before we help them, the worse off we all are. 

And the longer we sit around pretending poverty only looks like one set of circumstances, the harder it’s going to be to really get down to business and end it once and for all.

When we deny things of poor people based in the idea that poor people “don’t deserve” those things, just by virtue of their financial situation, we’re perpetuating classism. Our income, our savings, our credit lines – those are not sums of our worth. 

When we refuse to empathize and trust in people’s stories, when we refuse to allow the poor to ask for help or call themselves as such, we perpetuate a status quo that makes the actual suffering of poor people invisible and worthless. 

And when we do that, we hurt everyone who isn’t swimming in pools full of hundred dollar bills. 

When we tell poor people they can’t be poor and own a cell phone, we invalidate the stories of thousands of low- and middle-class Americans who feel insecure about their finances. 

When we tell poor people they shouldn’t be buying healthy food, or nice clothes, or renting their own apartments, or anything along those lines, we buy into a false dichotomy between rich and poor that does nothing but make most of us poorer."