In “The Culture of Poverty, Crack Babies, and Welfare Cheats,” Ana Teresa Ortiz and Laura Briggs assess the foundation of today’s poverty population and the so called “culture of poverty.”
Their piece begins with the examination of the early 90’s Romanian adoption boom and how U.S. foster children were viewed as “damaged goods.” Instead of adopting children in need here, where they would have received subsidies and federal aid, many families hoping to adopt opted to spend thousands of dollars just to travel overseas.
Ortiz and Briggs believe this was caused by how needy or impoverished children are “viewed” in the U.S. Unlike other countries, America sees poor children as nothing more than products of their own “degenerate” parents, unable to succeed in the world, and will therefore be destined to face the same fate as those parents. However, as the authors point out, this way of thinking seems to be unique to Americans: Ironically, children “at risk” who live overseas are seen as both in need of rescue and characterologically untainted. These children are seen as victimized by a poverty that can be remedied through transformation of the state, modernization, education, technology, and science” (41). Ortiz and Briggs also quote Oscar Lewis’ view on the culture of poverty and how it is “passed down from generation to generation.”
Their section on “crack babies” was especially interesting for me to read. I, myself, have fallen victim to the widely accepted opinion on “crack babies” being “doomed for life,” having a proliferous amount of health problems and developmental difficulties. I had no idea that there was such a hidden backstory behind the issue, involving racial profiling, misreported “evidence,” and a failed welfare system.
My questions include:
What would be the first step we need to take in order to view our impoverished children in a new light? Or is that even the root of the problem?
Why do other countries approach poverty in a more “positive” way than America does? Are they more compassionate, or is it due to their more collectivist perspective (where as the U.S. is an individualistic culture)?
Though we are essentially individualists, why do Americans make exceptions for certain social issues? Why do we think it is okay to tell a pregnant woman what is appropriate for her while pregnant, if we are so separated from everyone else when it comes to other topics?