Alaysha Reign is a college student majoring in sociology. Her goals are to research marginalized groups and their portrayal in media.
I didn't have the most money growing up. I was always stressed about the cost of food, clothes, and school supplies, and this didn't become easier once my family was able to use food stamps. But during all this, I never considered that I was part of the millions of people living in poverty. I lived in a good part of town in a three-bedroom house that didn't flood during the harsh hurricane season in Louisiana. There were many other families with much less.
Whenever my school library was giving away books that would be thrown away, I jumped at the chance to get some. I could never afford my own books as a child unless they were part of a Christmas gift my parents saved all year for. This book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, was one of the books I picked up.
This book made me realize how much goes into poverty, and how the many aspects of it affected me more than I ever thought they could.
Poverty is more than just finances. It is emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical, as well as a lack of resources such as support systems, role models, and knowledge of middle-class hidden rules.
There are hidden rules among all of the classes. Those in poverty focus on entertainment and safety, and those in wealth focus on connections, but in middle-class, the emphasis is on maintaining what one has and negotiating for more.
Ruby Payne makes it very clear why those in poverty wouldn't be able to know these middle-class hidden rules. How would one maintain something they don't have, whether that be money or just everyday tools like scissors? Or, in my case, a pizza cutter after I accidentally melted the only one we had. Those in poverty do not have access to items that the middle-class consider staples of the home, and, therefore, can't know how to maintain them as common knowledge. Instead, they know how to protect themselves and think out of the box for solutions that would otherwise have a simple solution.
"The bottom line in generational poverty is entertainment and relationships. In middle class, the criteria against which most decisions are made relate to work and achievement. In wealth, it is the ramifications of the financial, social, and political connections that have the weight." Ruby Payne
These hidden rules are used every day in the workplace, like knowing how to use certain programs or even being able to read a contract; knowing what you are signing, and being able to negotiate for things like more pay.
But issues for those in poverty occur long before the workplace. They start in school. Children in poverty are often forced to grow up fast, whether that is just because of the stress of the situation around them like I did, or because they actually had to parent themselves, their younger siblings, and/or the adults in their lives. Because of this, many of these children never develop what is called the adult voice, something that allows for negotiation in a non-threatening way, both internally and externally.
Not only do they not have an adult voice, but the use of the child voice, which can be defensive and emotional, often has trauma surrounding it. In school, especially when being disciplined, a student in poverty will use what is called a parent voice, which is sometimes authoritative, demanding, and judgmental, and can sound sassy and condescending when used toward a teacher, which leads to even more disciplinary action. Many choose to do this instead of facing the fear using the child voice reminds them of. In classrooms that don't use or teach the adult voice, this becomes a huge issue. Many teachers use the parent voice when disciplining, which, for a child who has already been their own parent, escalates the situation.
There are many topics in this book, ranging from hidden rules, language, and relationships, but they all have one thing in common. Those in poverty often do not have the resources and support they need to thrive. Whether that be education, knowledge about what is acceptable and expected in different social circles, or even having access to tools, physical and not, that help them use what they already have or get what they don't.
And those that got out of poverty all state one thing as what helped them get out of it, a mentor that showed them what they were capable of and gave them the resources they need to succeed. And while I haven't gotten out of it yet, I now know that this same thing, the numerous teachers and faculty members that nurtured my curiosity and creativity and helped me through the hardest times of my life, as well as my parents, who always drove me to make something of myself, is the reason I am on track to doing just that.