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Saturday, July 2, 2022

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HousingHomelessnessThe bad narrative of 'bad choices'

The bad narrative of ‘bad choices’

It's an easy way to look away and blame homelessness on poor people.


How DO you look away?

Because we houseless and poor people have been consistently referred to as the other-those people-It’s our fault- our choices- and we are NOT OK- 

The Homeless people – you call us-disembodying our humanity- like we are a “tribe” with no land or culture or purpose of life- 

We have MADE BAD CHOICES- and therefore- somewhere in the back of yo mind- 

Deserve to Die-OutSide 

Admit it- 

This isn’t a trick 

Its the REALIST ….

And where was that choices list 

Who wrote this unseen manual we all supposed to overstand & get 

Who has the publishing rights- ? God ? Ancestors ? Great Spirit ?

BAD CHOICES CHOICES- these are Neo-liberal narratives allowing u to hoard, profile, convict, and evict without missing a step. 

Cleaning and Sweeping – Incarcerating and Taking- From Belongings to Homes- we have no value to own, hold, love or be slow- 

Because we made BAD CHOICES- so goes the submersion of our collective voices- our differences – our multitude of lives 

Today’s Poem from a poverty skola is dedicated to all of us distinctly different, humans who happen to live outside — the Bad Choice-makers — the losers, the low-lifes and the bums in yo eyes

the Ones- who make you sick 

cause you can’t solve us

and of course 

We are a monolith 

Todays message from a Poverty Skola is dedicating to un-packing the “C” Word used by racists, classists, church people, teachers, elders and politricksters of all cultures, classes, and communities.  

We can blame poor people for povery — or we can act

“I had to take my children and run for my life, now we are houseless,” one of so many co-mama, poverty skolaz who I hold, walk with, and love, told me her story of how she ended up houseless with her four children.

She went on to explain how the father of her children threatened her with a gun, how she had about two minutes to get out of there. I explained this situation to an un-peopleSkooled community member who was throwing some charity crumbs at me for the “poor people”  and he immediately responded with my favorite line: “Well she made some bad choices,” and then resumed handing me bottled water to “give to the homeless people instead of a dollar…”

The disturbing thing is people’s universal use of the “bad choices” narrative to explain away their dis-interest, anti-poor-people hate, anti-Blackness, racism, and deeply embedded fascism for folks who don’t have the privilege of privacy.

Because we are roofless, we are subjected to the violence of exposure. Our poverty, disorganization, “messiness” struggle is constantly subjected to peoples purview, whereas people who are inside could be messy, or clutterers, or substance abusers, or sick, or even making “bad choices” on a daily basis, but no one can see them, they aren’t in the open, exposed and therefore easily hated or judged by anyone and everyone.

This also enables people to endlessly practice what I call the violent acts of looking away.

The roots of this Bad-Choices Narrative goes all the way back to the early land-stealers, preaching “accumulation” and “hard work”  and “pulling up bootstraps” as the models to fighting “sin” and attaining  success — if you slog through the insanely boring book “The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism.” From the early 20th Century, they set the groundwork for the wealth-hoarders who preached “good choices” and “clean lives” and “bootstraps” pull-ups — and anything else was your fault. It’s “predeterminism,” a fascist world view that says you were born into your poverty and unless you resist that sin, it is ultimately your fault you are poor. 

The equally disturbing part of this narrative is the way that it is taken up and taken in by so many people on this stolen land, with no recognition of the racism and violent classism that undergirds it. 

My humble opinion as a mama and teacher is that concepts of “good and bad” choices (with deeply conscious critical world-views of the racism, classism, and patriarchy that exists in all notions of good and bad),  are important if you are teaching children and young adults who have not figured out the world yet, and need guidance and overstanding and eldership. But to use this bizarre line as a way to “look away,” not care, judge or give a water bottle instead of a dollar and dehumanize our houseless bodies is an extremely dangerous and violent act that is very specific to this stolen land, and enables and causes the ongoing death of our houseless bodies. 

In Finland, for example, they have almost eradicated homelessness because all people receive housing — just because they need it, not because they have made good or bad choices. Not because someone is “nice” or good or all the other racist and classist ways good choices is referred to and our lives are judged.

The first people to claim this Bad Choices Narrative is us poor, incarcerated, houseless people. “It’s my fault, I’m here, I made some very bad choices,” said my friend doing three years in San Quentin for drug sales.

Yes, he didn’t listen to his grandmomma or his auntie about hanging with better friends or staying in school. But he also got picked up on a racist classist drug raid by over-policing in his poor people of color neighborhood which happens every day in this country.

Yea, my mama got with a man who almost killed her and then almost killed me and then we ended up on the street with no place to go. Why? Because she had been molested, abused, hated, in violent foster homes and orphanages her whole childhood, and her own mama had attempted to kill her multiple times.

Do you know how many times people told us our poverty and homelessness was our fault, that we made bad choices, and that was just one of them?

What about the fact that every time she tried to get an apartment she was racially profiled as a poor single mama of color who “probably didn’t have good credit?” 

That there is no guaranteed actually affordable housing for poor families and children. And every police stop my friend encountered wasn’t for DUI’s or slanging but were Driving While Black and Brown.

Often our homelessness is caused by unjust profiling and incarceration, not to mention our death from exposure to COVID and silencing of important voices like Brother Malik from the SF Bay View Newspaper is experiencing in the Taylor Center right now. 

That no matter how many times you put me in jail for my houselessness it didn’t get me a home; in fact most of the time it leads to Black and Brown and poor people’s homelessness. That this is stolen land with settler colonial codes like red-lining in place that de-stabilized thousands of people from their family equity and made  them housing insecure for life.

That this krapitalist system enables, allows, and encouraged the ongoing profiling, arrests, sweeps, and incarceration of poor people, which destabilizes their lives and ends them up houseless.

It enables the elder abuse and eviction of Iris Canada, a 100 year old Black elder from her family home in the FillnoMore district of San Francisco, which led to her death, and my auntie Gerry, a poor domestic laboring, domestic-violence-surviving immigrant, evicted from her family home of 42 years in San Francisco to homelessness and eventually a broken trailer home in West Sacramento, where the family could never re-coup their already impoverished fragile lives. 

The early Puritan pilgrims were Calvinists, who believed that hard work and good choices were the way for us all to succeed — white people with a racist, classist world-view of good and bad. Don’t you think it’s time to move on from their ancient hate and realize where we really are as humans — and then maybe we can overstand the urgent acts of looking at, instead of looking away. 

POOR Magazine will be sponsoring a “#Jails2Streets Press Conference on Zoom this Friday, Feb 26th at 12 noon- where they release RoofLEss radio report on the connections to incarceration and profiling and homelessness in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland Click here to register: https://forms.gle/Vy6XK9WtWdfWm9PY9

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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