Special Stores, Special Schools and Especially Ignorant People

pI always appreciate when someone else gets outraged. That’s not to say I ever want someone to get angry. But since I’m usually the person loudly stating my opinions or expressing indignation at some injustice, I can relate when others do the same.

I was getting my hair done the other day when another woman was waging a battle.

“My unemployed uncle,” she said, “is posting the most ignorant comments on Facebook. “He’s collecting unemployment and complaining about people who use food stamps. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.”

The woman typed something into her phone as she talked. “It’s not even food stamps any more. There are no stamps. It’s called SNAP and you get the benefits on a card.”

She typed something else then put down her phone.

“You would think,” she said, “he would know better than to make those comments when he knows I’ll see them.”

The woman who was speaking is knowledgeable, well spoken, hard-working and generous. She recently donated a half-day spa treatment to charity, and she won’t get paid for the hours she provides the service. She made the donation because the charity helped her when she was a teen mom.

“When I was a 17,” she said, “I had a child, was working and going to school. I was anything but lazy.”

A few minutes later, she picked up her phone again.

“Oh this is priceless,” she said. “He just posted that there should be special stores for people who get food stamps. He thinks those stores should be specially stocked with low-price items and no beer or cigarettes.”

As she typed in a response, another woman said, “Well I have to agree that people shouldn’t be allowed to buy beer and cigarettes with food stamps.”

“They aren’t,” several of us said at once.

Granted, SNAP recipients can use their cards to buy food and use cash to buy beer and cigarettes. Unfortunately, those are the minority everyone notices. What we don’t notice are the people like the older woman I saw the other day using coupons with her SNAP card.

The conversation led to a short educational session about how people actually can’t buy beer or cigarettes with their SNAP cards. Neither can they buy toilet paper, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toothpaste nor other necessities that aren’t food. Everyone agreed that the federal program would be more beneficial if it operated more like WIC, which provides vouchers for specific, healthy and nutritional food.

“What did you say back to your uncle?” I finally asked.

“I suggested that if he thinks poor people are such a problem, then maybe we should have special schools just for poor kids. Not only that, but we need to stencil the letter “P” for poverty on all their clothes. You know, we should make sure we marginalize them so they don’t have any hope at all.”

For the remainder of my hair appointment, no matter what the topic, we kept coming back to the concept of special stores. People who sing off-key in public? Special stores. Rude people? Special stores. Snobs? Special stores. Wait, they think they already have them.

As I was scheduling my next appointment, I asked the woman if her uncle had responded to her latest comment.

“No,” she said,  “He must have figured out that you don’t mess with someone who has received food stamps. Some people might think I was a drain on society and never contributed anything, but I’m pretty sure I have.”

Everyone in the beauty shop agreed with her.

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About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter in high school, a son starting his latest adventures at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on August 10, 2013, in My life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. “..stencil the letter “P” for poverty…” Reminded of “The Scarlet Letter” book/movie.
    Being raised in the tenements of a “poorer” section of the south Bronx, in New York City, I learned at a VERY early age… “One man’s floor is another man’s ceiling”.. Thankfully, I’ve never forgotten it.. Hopefully, I never will..!!

  2. It’s been my experience that the more privileged people become the more stupidly ignorant they also become. Mere coincidence? I think not 🙂

  3. I couldn’t agree more with your opening statement! Given my comments already on your blog, perhaps you wont be surprised that I also tend to be the only one around who voices their opinions! =)

    This woman’s uncle made an ignorant and inaccurate and heartbreaking statement. I am in the camp that thinks we shouldn’t regulate what people can and can’t buy with their benefits. You barely get any money at all, and people are constantly judging you for your purchase. “Hmph, you didn’t use coupons to stretch it even further? Hmph, see you’re buying chips and soda instead of fruits and vegetables. What a waste of taxpayer money!!” Just because people have less money, doesn’t mean that others should be able to tell them how to eat, what to drink, or how to live. Maybe — just maybe — we should subsidize healthy farm-grown food instead of corn and soy so that it would be cheaper to buy fresh produce than a 6-pack of coke!

    I hate when I hear people *brag* (or complain/whine) about how they would offer a homeless person food instead of cash. What? You think just because you happen to have more money and/or access to resources at this moment in time, you automatically make better decisions for someone else who is currently in a different position? Rude, arrogant, and patronizing. That “special stores” idea goes way beyond this type of thinking.

    But hey, if we, as a society, weren’t socialized to victim blame then how would we cope? Knowing that it is a combination of luck and unearned privilege that separates ‘me’ from ‘them’ — rather than hard work and ambition — is tough! It’s a lot easier to think that people with less money are uneducated scum who can’t budget rather than think about how all of us contribute to a classist, racist, and sexist system that sustains un/underemployment and homelessness, etc.

    I think that other woman’s response was clever. Very clever, indeed. Thanks for sharing!… Sorry for my rant. Hope it wasn’t too much of a bummer! On a positive note … there are people fighting against these problems every day! Things HAVE gotten better over time, not worse!

    • You can always “rant” here. I just got a phone call from a friend who received a call asking for money for a drug prevention program for ‘those kids whose parents don’t do anything and just want to sit around and collect a welfare check.” Literally. That was the script the charity was using to solicit dollars. My friend got mad and told them they called the wrong person to approach with those lines. And then she hung up.

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