Saturday, January 13, 2007

Poverty and Social Divisions

Megan McArdle:

I started to wonder: what is this "EBT" thing that's on all the supermarket checkout card machines? So I asked the checkout woman. She stared at me.

"That's for food stamps," she said, finally. She was black. I am so white that sometimes, in the early morning, I blind myself in the bathroom mirror. I have never felt like such a dumb, privileged middle class white girl in my life. Ever.

And yet, the thing is, in New York I shop in a housing project. Indeed, I have lived in marginal or transitional neighbourhoods pretty much all my life. I know what food stamps (now cards) look like; indeed, when I was younger, thanks to friends whose families were on them, I had a pretty good working knowlege of what could and could not be purchased with them, and even what grocery stores in the neighbourhood would let you buy soap with your food stamps. (Don't call me, USDA! I'll never tell.) I am a privileged white woman, but not a totally clueless one. Unless you'd actually used food stamps, how would you know what the code on the checkout machine was?

But I don't think that I am imagining the words "Stupid, rich white suburban idiot" running through the checker's head as I gathered my groceries and left the store.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds

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