What's wrong with these headlines?
Combating the Poverty Crisis in Black America
African Americans: The State of Disparity
In 1999 Martin Gilens wrote in “Why Americans Hate Welfare” that:
Today, this gross inconsistency, between people’s racialized perception of poverty in the United States and the actual diversity of experiences, persists and continues to undermine the movement for economic justice.
Being Mindful of the Gap
People of color and people with limited financial resources are disproportionately oppressed by the wealth gap. Mind the Gap! recognizes this fact and aims to keep it central to the campaign. We also realize that these communities have historically been mislabeled (e.g. calling people welfare queens, referring to things, people, and behaviors as ghetto, and assuming a person’s class based on his or her race) and abused by racism and classism. Thus, we believe it is imperative that racialized- and class-based statistics be presented in a way that avoids perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Statistics and facts are powerful and essential tools for inspiring change. However, failing to confront the stereotypes that race- and class- based information may foster immediately limits our movement for economic justice. It may characterize the wealth gap as a problem only afflicting people of color with limited financial resources. Or as an issue that is less pressing or irrelevant to white people with greater financial means. This promotes false images that ignore the extent of inequality, alienates certain groups (e.g. wealthy people of color or white people living in poverty), and further marginalizes people of color and people with limited financial means.
Language is power. What we say informs what we do and how we frame things determines who will join the conversation. If certain people are further marginalized, stereotyped, or disempowered by our language, the movement for economic justice is inherently limited in its ability to creatively and comprehensively find solutions.
Mind the Gap!’s goal is to use the power of statistics and facts that highlight the wealth gap’s racial and class disparities, without perpetuating negative stereotypes. We are guided by several principles, outlined below. These may also be helpful to you as you Spread the Word about the wealth gap and its disproportionate impact on people of color and people with limited financial resources.
We hope you keep these suggestions in mind and send us your own ideas for other ways to challenge racism and classism.