My name is Tianna Gaines-Turner. I’m a proud mother of three children, and I live in the Frankfort neighborhood of Philadelphia. I am writing in response to the New York Times article, “Culture of Poverty Makes a Comeback.” I really don’t agree with this.
People don’t choose to live in poverty—it is what it is, and people are born into it.I have friends who have lived in my community and would love to leave. Unfortunately, people just can’t afford to move. So people stay and live in poverty. Their family roots are here. Houses pass down from one family member to another, and our kids make lasting friendships. Young children don’t really understand poverty—to them, it’s just the way they’ve always lived. People feel a sense of belonging here, and sometimes, it’s easier to just stay and live with what you know.
At the same time, our children often witness a great deal of violence at a young age, and it’s a big motivator for them to do better so they can move out. My 6-year-old always says, “Mommy, things will get better. I’ll grow up and be a famous basketball player and move you and daddy into a big house with no mice, and we won’t have to struggle.”
Despite this struggle, there is a problem with how the media chooses to display low-income communities. There are many people who are smart and have high IQs that live in poverty. But you don’t hear about them on the news. It is easier to report murder, violence and rape. That is what sells these days—not stories about communities coming together to feed the homeless or back-to-school “power parties” where school supplies are given out.
I and others are proud of our community. It not only stands for the despairing stories that the media want to print, but for many good things as well. For example, my neighborhood just built a community senior center so that older folks don’t have to live far away from their children and grandchildren.
The article also addresses gender and marriage, but in my experience, gender has nothing to do with poverty. It is 2010—poverty is of all genders and colors. It is not just single-parent households that are struggling, it is all households. And it is hard on everyone.
There are so many unmarried couples that are scared to get married. If you are single on public assistance, you are eligible for many government assistance programs. When you get married, you have to add your spouse even if they don’t have any income. Very often, your benefits drop. Because of this, many couples do not marry so that they can continue making ends meet in everyday life.
Poverty is everywhere and has all different shades of color. But only one shade of color is most talked about. Violence is reported more in low-income communities because that’s what people want to hear. Single mothers are often blamed for being single mothers, and it barely registers that there are many two-parent households that are struggling as well. Where’s the justice in that?
In poverty, the only culture is injustice. The injustice is what causes poverty, not the people. In the people that I know and love, there is a deep culture of love and caring.
Tianna Gaines-Turner is a member of Witnesses to Hunger.