I started thinking about this recently when I saw this card posted on a friend's Facebook page.
This person and I debate for DAYS about social welfare policy and it's clear from this card what her sentiments are. No matter how many times I read or hear things like this I am still frustrated by people's lack of knowledge around welfare policy, the assumptions about who receives welfare and who doesn't, and the history behind our policies. Poor, minority mothers are by far the most stigmatized in our society. It is true that minorities, particularly African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately represented on the welfare roles, but how did that come to be? Are they just lazier than everyone else? The answer is no, despite with this someecard will have you believe. We have created a two tiered system of social security. Social insurance was designed as an entitlement for everyone, if you work and put into the system, you will be rewarded. Rarely do we refer to Social Security payments in retirement as welfare. However, when this system was created it excluded agricultural and domestic workers from receiving benefits. Who did this impact? Disproportionately minorities and women. And where did they have to turn? The other arm of social security, public assistance. The assistance for the undeserving and what we have come to know clearly as welfare. What we have stigmatized as dirty, shameful, and embarrassing.
These ideas of worthiness or deserving vs. undeserving and imbedded deep in the moral fibers of our country and the policies that guide our systems. How can we, as social workers, strive to change our system and our policies in the direction of eradicating these deep-seeded divides that make the American Dream so much harder to attain for some than others?