Response to the article in Pam’s “Housing Loss: The Grief and Other Losses”

Original post here.

The article shared by Pam really got me thinking about the blame and lack of control felt when one is involuntarily pushed into homelessness. In Pagliarini’s attempt to explain how “learned helplessness” is an eventual learned symptom of being poor in America, he undermines the real issues at hand and continues the endless cycle of blaming the poor for being poor. In effect, he’s labeling the victims of systematic violence as the actual origin of this violence because they haven’t taken a hold of their own “control” yet.

The thing is, people who have fallen victim to foreclosure and homelessness really don’t have a lot of room to exercise their own control and agency. The mindset that these people have merely “given up” as a result of endless financial strains is problematic.

Despite Pagliarini’s attempt to set his article outside of the “Get Rich Quick” mentality, it ends up being exactly that. His article is riddled with a white privilege perspective with some classist ideals sprinkled in here and there. If we were to shove this article into Lelah Turner’s hands and say “Alright, here’s the answer to your problems. Get going!” she would laugh our face. It almost reminds me of the pee scene in The Turner House when Cha-Cha realizes the kind of life he is “destined” to live. From Cha-Cha’s perspective, as a black boy growing up in Detroit it’s as if his agency had been inherently taken away from him from day one.  Ideas like “Get Perspective!” and “Achieve Success” are unrealistic and problematic to advise to people like Cha-Cha or Lelah (Cha-Cha being a black man and Lelah being homeless, both under their own kind of systematic pressure) because they haven’t had the same set of opportunities laid out for them.

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