Last week I posted the suggestion that the way in which depictions of those who are hungry often make them less than human. I wondered how we could possibly see their full humanity (along with all their power and dignity) by only seeing their limitations (that in many cases are simply material). A couple people responded with thoughtful ideas along the same lines (props to Kris and Mary!). A blog post I found today via my Twitter account (thanks @meowtree!) raised a similar question. The author writes,
And what would communities in general think if they saw the kinds of marketing appeals that go out in their names. … I’m bothered by these kinds of appeals, imagining a photo of my own children plastered on a ‘needy children’ billboard or direct mail piece somewhere, thinking about what that might do to their self-image or my image of myself as a capable parent.
The point is well taken–how would you feel if that less than flattering image was all that was known of you? Her concern also perhaps reveals a bias we have against those who receive aid. We too often assume that those receiving aid have some flaw (and the images of people who live in poverty don’t always help with that!).
The fact is I have been the recipient of all kinds of aid. My dad was a doctor, and rewarded me with cash for good grades. My mom (and, yes, you too dad) created a loving, safe environment. They had time, energy, and resources to give me a well-rounded childhood experience. I had the help of a good education system and a stable government (things that I did nothing to create or sustain). My skin color and gender gave and (continue to give) me many unearned advantages. Why is it that it is so difficult for me (and people like me) to recognize and admit all of the aid that we have been given (both monetary and otherwise)? And why is it so easy for us to categorize (and even denigrate) people who did not receive a similar aid package? What sort of soul searching do we need to do?
I have digressed from the question implicit in my first post on this topic (namely, is there a place for a charity mindset), and I hope to engage it next week. For now, I’d appreciate any thoughts or responses you have on the topic!
– David Creech