Inevitable Truths: Poverty and the Lack of Diversity in America (9/13/10)

30 Sep

As a nation, we’ve replaced the fight against racism with an untouchable: diversity. “Indeed, in the United States, the commitment to appreciating diversity emerged out of the struggle against racism, and the word diversity itself began to have the importance it does for us today,” (Michaels, 767). It’s seen as a vastly followed, mutually respected ideology, which people harp about but never really show any movement. This is simply because you can’t force diversity against nature. The “solutions” in favor of diversity remain as some of our nation’s greatest “skeletal ideals”, much like the fight against poverty, the recent “war on terror”, etc. My point being that these things are both inevitable and insurmountable. The certainty of taxes and the fading ability for legitimate employment lend to an ever-growing lower class while the higher class gains further wealth. The same things can be said for diversity. While we all claim we’re “culturally diverse” by saying such things like: “I have an Indian brother-in-law”, “I eat sushi sometimes”, or “I read Spanish literature.” The truth, as we should all know by now, is that both poverty and diversity are impenetrable struggles that are natural struggles, not concerns of the nation.

            Recently, plans for building a mosque next to ground zero were discussed. Most Republicans cringed at the thought of this, because as you know, a group of Muslims crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center. Because of tradition and stereotyping, most right-wingers associate the occurrences and think that building a mosque is a hidden way of infiltration. Some quote history, saying Muslims built mosques after times of great conquering, i.e. the sacking of Demascus and the demolishing there of the Church of St. John the Baptist for a mosque. So, while Republicans mix and match history to assault this recent challenge to their routines, where does the long-running ideal of diversity lie? I would say somewhere way in the back of their minds. Why shouldn’t we let them build a place for worship if we have our own places for worship throughout the country? Just because a few of them made a bad example against us in a terrorist attack, doesn’t mean we should immediately relate the two events. So, then, why is it a seemingly natural response for some to relate them?

            The truth is that a natural fight against diversity runs through everybody’s veins. While some adjust well to these presences of change, most people cling to what they know and those who are similar, essentially breaking away from diversity. Young rich whites may wear Abercrombie, American Eagle, and Hollister, eat at sushi bars and expensive steak restaurants on a weekly basis. African Americans of the same class may wear flashy jewelry or sport designer clothing. Either way, you see the same things repeated because it’s impossible to get people away from their routine knowledge and lifestyle.  The lower class, in my opinion, tends to be the more diverse, simply because they are exposed to more than their higher-class contemporaries. For example, a lower class person will take in what he see a middle class person doing as well as what a higher class person is doing, while the higher class people tend to stick with what they know: the higher class world. It’s much easier to understand those above you on life’s totem pole than it is to understand those below you. The truth of the matter is a banker knows no idea of being homeless other than what his viral media makes him believe, but the homeless man stumbles upon a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk and knows where the banker is coming from, to an extent. This shows that diversity and poverty are interwoven, furthering the struggle for a “solution”.

            “We love race – we love identity – because we don’t love class. We love thinking that the differences that divide us are not the differences between those of us who have money and those who don’t but are instead the differences between those who are black and those who are white or Asian or Latino or whatever” (Michaels, 768). I’m from Pittsburgh and just to take that as an example, the city is diverse as a whole, but there are districts and neighborhoods that challenge that notion. Glassport, the town where I live, was originally very Italian and Polish. Years down the line, African-Americans moved from the city into the suburbs, and because of sheer numbers, the Italians and Polish would generally relocate out of natural discomfort. In the other suburbs of Pittsburgh, you can find more of the same. In Upper St. Claires, rich families congregate but the increasing number of poverty-stricken people in the city creates a special problem to which the solution is relocation, or to be pushed out. As a result, Upper St. Claires is deteriorating. All of these things are sad truths, but it’s even sadder that it’s our own human nature to stick with those who are similar. Even with race and class aside, think of your group of friends. They have the same interests as you, don’t they? If you had a group of friends and you each were diverse in every way, you wouldn’t be friends, as a matter of fact, you’d probably be enemies.

            If you look at our national history, too, what do you see; a long line of Caucasian, largely Protestant presidents. JFK was the first Catholic ever in office and somebody obviously took offense to that, because he was assassinated. Our country, whether you want to admit to it or not, is upholding a veil.  We claim the ideals of equality as profound staples, a blanket of essential lies. It can be said that “the majority” has made these claims in the past about the true majority, us. America as the land of opportunity? While it’s true that some people achieve great success here, it’s vastly a sea of connections and if you don’t have them, you don’t ascend the ranks.

            I’ve noticed there’s been this sort of progression from the minorities struggling to those same minorities becoming the majority rule. There’s endless racism (internalized and reverse) and there’s endless classist attitudes. Penn State, for an example, is one of the more prestigious schools in the state, and simply for that reason, the cost to attend is higher. So, in turn, people like me, who didn’t grow up in the nuclear family with the two car garage and the secured finances, have to struggle to make ends meet. This is just to attend school? It seems ridiculous. I have friends that are very smart, but simply can’t go here because they don’t have the money. What’s the true price of an education? What about employment? A cousin of a friend of a friend gets the job with no prior experience, but the more qualified mother of two gets the boot to find countless more similar situations down the line. You can claim that the world is very giving and more positive and that I’m just looking at the wrong side of things, nihilistically, but I don’t think these things can be ignored anymore. Our own human nature is our ruin. There’s no solving something predisposed; simple as that.

            “The choices we make toward that end lead to the very opposite of diversity. The United States might be a diverse nation considered as a whole, but block by block and institution by institution it is a relatively homogeneous nation” (Brooks, 307). In turn, poverty and diversity are both impenetrable struggles that are natural in one’s life, not problems of the nation. You can see this all over America, whether it be within your group of friends or in your neighborhood. If your poor, it makes you different from the rest of the group, and because of the natural response to deny diversity, it’s very likely that you wouldn’t develop a strong relationship with someone that’s richer than you. They’ve simply come from too different of a background for the two of you to recognize your struggles and become friends. That’s how it works on the level of the nation, too. You can’t escape the ever-growing level of poverty of the ever-growing lack of diversity.

 Works Cited


Brooks, David. “People Like Us”. The Writer’s Presence. 6th ed.

Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 306-11. Print.


Michaels, Walter Benn. “The Trouble with Diversity”. The Writer’s Presence. 6th ed.

          Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 766-74. Print.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses


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