[Class vs Race] The hidden rules of class

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  1. Mo the Educator says:

    I could go in for about 50 pages on Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. There may not be a more damaging piece of widely distributed educational material. Payne begins from the premise that poverty is not a set of imposed conditions, but a behavioral disorder to be cured. The list above is representative of the classist and racist view she has of the impoverished.

    I’ll just give a couple of examples of what you see when you peel away the very thin layers of bigotry from the above list:

    Personality – Black people have been viewed as an “entertainment class”. At its worst in the form of minstrelsy, and at its best as the innovators of popular culture. In particular, Black people have been viewed as being funny, but at the expense of being viewed as substantive. Payne presents this cultural stereotype as a “rule” for the poor.

    Language – The “casual register” to which Payne refers is a dig at ebonics or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) which most Black people speak. While most of us reading this site are able to use both AAVE and “business English” properly (code-switching), many poor Black people are not. In addition, AAVE is not a language of “survival”, but a normal method of communication and networking that has the same utility in impoverished communities as “formal English” has in wealthy ones. To imply that one is superior than the other means that a vital aspect of someone’s culture – the way they speak – is inherently inferior. When people refer to children of poverty as kids whose families are “broke”, who come from a “broken” home, and who speak “broken” English, it’s no surprise that we end up with a “broken” child. We treat them that way. We educate them that way. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Outside of being an interesting study in bigotry and the pathologizing of poverty, Payne’s “Framework” is really a house of cards.

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