My name is Nikki and I was once ‘trailer trash’. Yep.
For a period of my adult life, I was a certifiable member of the great unwashed, a pleb, a pov, a single mum on welfare. Someone once referred to me as ‘a wreck with spares’ – my kids being the spares, me being the wreck.
In this country, like most others, we have legislation against race discrimination, sex discrimination and age discrimination. But institutionalised and interpersonal classism is more virulent than ever. Poor people continue to be labelled, judged and discriminated against by neighbours, communities, the media, and even by our own government. It’s socially entrenched and it stinks.
Think of the kid in the playground with the holes in his only pair of shoes, you know that one who can’t afford to go on the school excursions, that little ‘houso’ loser. Think of that scraggy single mother with the bawling brat who doesn’t have quite enough silver coins to satisfy the check-out operator. Think of that deranged hobo on the street asking for small change so he can buy a bottle of beer. Think of those high-school drop-outs who can’t wait to get knocked up so they can get on the welfare gravy train.
If those stereotypes sound familiar, you might just be a teensy bit classist. It’s not entirely your fault; it’s an attitude that is hammered into us from an early age. In this narcissistic, consumerist world, poverty is abhorrent. And as long as there is robust discrimination against poor people, the rich can get richer without check.
We can feel a sense of compassion for the business owners while maintaining cool disregard for the casual workers when their penalty rates are cut. After all, if they are so poor they’ll miss a few Sunday dollars in the pay packet, then it really is their fault for not being a lawyer.