The Stigma of Poverty


We have an ultimate need as we navigate life to sort things; whether it be cutlery, laundry or people.  It’s our human nature to simplify in order to make sense of life.  But it has to stop being done with people! People are quickly sorted by gender, wealth and status.  Immediately that’s when stigma and labeling comes into play.  We all have different stories which is what make the world such an awesome place.  But the label of ‘poor’ needs to be re-examined as it’s becoming a bad word. People are more than their religious beliefs, philosophies, sexuality and bank account balance.

What does being poor mean?  Stop throwing the word around without understanding the definition albeit difficult to define. Poor can mean struggling to pay bills, not taking vacations, being homeless, not having enough money for groceries or music lessons for your children.  It is and only is a measurement of wealth.  It is not a description of morals, child rearing philosophies, work ethic or lifestyle.  It can be described as  “Economic deprivation – lack of income — is a standard feature of most definitions of poverty. But this in itself does not take account of the myriad of social, cultural and political aspects of the phenomenon. Poverty is not only a deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity.” – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Poverty makes people uncomfortable and when faced with uncomfortable situations society tends to affix stigmas. When we stigmatize poverty what happens is that preconceived notions such as what poor people. ‘Poor’ people don’t deserve a new guitar or to eat at a proper restaurant. When society becomes a judge and jury to what other humans deserve and what they don’t then we dehumanize different people. Something the ugly side of human history has done with other races, First Nations People and religions all over the world.

Poverty is not a choice. People living in poverty aren’t lazy, irresponsible, unreliable, unstable.  They are not bad parents. Poor people aren’t failures as human beings but quite the opposite it creates strong characters that understand the true values in life.

Poverty isn’t an individual problem. It’s a cultural epidemic. And nobody should feel ashamed for being entangled in it.  While charities work to ease financial burdens they also work to keep the poor – poor and those with wealth feeling good if they choose to contribute. This system maintains a status quo of unbalanced power.  Food banks, social programs and Christmas charities provide relief only and keeps the class system firmly in place. An entire societal revolution would need to occur in order the make change.  In the meantime we can begin the process but reducing the stigma associated with poverty.


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