meritocracy, ghetto mythology, & slander of us Black poor
Today I went to Target.
I am crowdfunding most of my rent this month because I ran into some financial problems and the small amount of savings I had was drained, and I have nothing fun to show for it.
I woke up and I needed medicine and I haven’t switched my insurance to my new state yet and since I knew what was wrong I decided to go buy the over the counter solution, a $3 set of towels, pantiliners, crayons for my kid, a $3 laundry bag… and a set of Moleskine journals. Because I’ve been depressed, and I want to do something. And writing in a journal is terrifying to me right now, so I should do it.
I lingered over those journals as we made our way to the register. How irresponsible must I be to be wasting $20 on journals? That $20 could be going toward my phone bill. My rent. I work every night but in my mind I am lazy. I’m lazy because I am poor and I’m not making any money and I refuse to get a part time job making $10/hour. So I must not want to not be poor. So I’m lazy.
By the time I reached the register I had created a feedback loop of anxiety and judgment and my medicine cost $10 more than I thought it would but I needed it so I shrugged it off and then my hand touched the journals and I felt pained. How dare I? And I scanned them and my total was $60. How dare I.
So I got them because. Because, because.
I’m a broke bitch with expensive taste, but I don’t like to talk about the things I’ve bought because the money leaving is such a painful experience for me tinged with guilt and anxiety and self-loathing. How can I be so poor? You know what the synonyms for poor are? Defective. Faulty. Inferior. Moneyless. Necessitous. Ratchet. Ghetto. Black. Broke. Me.
I don’t like to talk about what I bought, especially if I got money from other people. Because I feel like they’re watching me, waiting to police me. Waiting to shit on me. And I will never forget Beth. Yeah, I’m gonna mention Beth by name because I have receipts should she ever decide to come for me and so this ain’t slander when I say: I crowdfunded some funds while attempting to move to Chicago right after the demise of my relationship with my son’s dad. I was working at a nonprofit arts org in Milwaukee called Artists Working in Education, and I loved it, but my domestic violence situation was preventing me from being my greatest for the minimal wages they were paying me for this part time internship. This woman was the head of the Board and was not directly associated with me at all so when my supervisor said it was okay for me to send out an email about my GoFundMe, I was surprised to see that she donated.
I’m gonna make this short as I can.
Beth donated and then not much later sent me an email chastising me for requesting off for court (for the restraining order) and childcare issues. She claimed, to paraphrase, that I didn’t seem that serious about making money to get myself out of my situation, as if I were a salaried employee. I responded by asking her if she wanted documentation (which I had) and pictures of the bruise on my face? What would suffice for me to prove that I was worth her donation?
I forwarded her email to her coworkers and asked them not to donate if they shared her sentiments, because I was going through enough as is.
Beth sent me scathing email, post-apology mind you, and asked for her donation back directly and was upset that I had put her business out there.
I chose not to respond.
White people don’t have a “thing.” They get avocados, but dassit. But because in the United States poverty is so closely linked to race, gender, and shame, we, us, have a thing. Jordans. Bundles. Makeup. Ghetto, undeniably Black things. Things we shouldn’t have, nor desire, because poverty isn’t cyclical and student loans aren’t crushing us and our parents (mamas) don’t need financial help if we make it out, if we make it out. If.
And if we don’t? We don’t deserve to. We don’t deserve Jordans. We don’t deserve that singular moment of happiness that I feel when my fingers brush across my sketchbook, when I pat my rainbow braids, when I purchase something to ease my sorrow just a bit because there’s a huge possibility I may never not be poor.
I’m saving my Starbucks money to buy the $300 Lemonade box set for Xmas.
I’m hoarding my change from my cash purchases to buy this $50 Fenty durag.
I’m skimping on buying avocado toast so I can fix my car, pay my rent, and be a millionaire by 2020. Imma be a Twitter-famous boughetto princess and everyone will say I rode dick to get where I am, and Imma be like:
We should defy them and their shitty mythology. We should talk joyously about our bundles, our Creepers, our Yeezys, our PS4s. We should take selfies of our purchases and talk about the rush we feel when we buy them. We should revel in our temporary happiness, because doing internet surveys and skimping on brekky is never gonna make us rich, wealthy yupsters — and most of aspire to just be.
If you liked this, I’m broke as fuck, rent is due in two weeks, and I’m gonna be popping out articles like Trump pops out his ill-thought out Tweets. Love me with gish at cash.me/suprihmbe or go buy some of my cool, awesome stuff at suprihmbe.storenvy.com. I’m also trying to grow my Patreon, see below. ALSO: heart this ish.