Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Struggling or Silk-Stocking?

Why does nobody talk about the ostentatious amount of people that play brokie on campus? I’ve met and gotten to know so many people that I assumed genuinely related to me on a socioeconomic or social level. Turns out, they’ve just been pretending to be poor and they’re actually loaded. I don’t really understand what this does. I’ve hung out with plenty of rich people but I don’t try to act like it. 

Your socioeconomic status is not an embarrassment nor is it an indicator of how great of a person you are. Pretending you’re someone you’re not is just going to cause you problems and stress. Just as it became apparent to me every time someone played broke, it’s obvious to everyone around you, especially the actually poor people. Whether you like it or not, wealth shows. 

At a place like Whitman I would understand trying to make yourself look poorer because of the social scene and how we act like all rich people are evil. I think that’s even more of a reason to admit you come from money because then you can use it to your benefit by doing good. We aren’t in middle school, we’re grown adults, the choices we make with our money really matter. 

Speaking of using your money for good, Whitman doesn’t set up a good example for the wealthy students either. The student body, including affluent students, have gone through hell and back trying to get the Board to divest or maybe just pay a little more attention to where they’re spending their money. Whitman is already expensive as is, if they’re racking up the amount of money we think they are (not to say that they have infinite amounts of money), then they should at least be mindful where they’re putting it (obviously not their mouths), not only for the sake of political activism but also to set a positive example for the rich students. 

It’s not even that the students are rich themselves, but their parents are. Growing up in money shapes you, whether you like it or not.

You can’t choose to grow up in a rich family, but you can choose to not lie about it and pretend to have grown up unfortunately poor. Choosing the choice you think a poor person would in any situation makes no sense. If I didn’t grow up poor myself, I wouldn’t know the difference and honestly, it’s scary. 

This trend of rich students masquerading as poor feeds harmful stereotypes by reinforcing the narrative that financial struggle is synonymous with being a good person. It also exacerbates the challenges faced by genuinely economically disadvantaged students. When they pretend to fit in or dodge negative views associated with wealth or growing up wealthy to make friends, they undermine the experiences and struggles of those who are actually financially disadvantaged.

This pretense distorts the narrative surrounding poverty, creating a false impression that financial struggle is merely a choice or an aesthetic. It trivializes the harsh realities faced by individuals living in poverty, such as limited access to educational resources, healthcare and basic necessities.

Some people struggled and are still struggling a lot to have gotten to go to Whitman. By treating poverty as a costume rather than a systemic issue, people contribute to the complete eradication of the struggles faced by marginalized communities.

When affluent students pretend to be poor, they can monopolize resources and opportunities that could benefit genuinely disadvantaged individuals. Although it’s not bound to happen, the possibility is risk enough. Academic opportunities, 24/7 information available about important resources and support services intended for low-income students may be diverted to those who don the façade of poverty, further widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. 

The appropriation of resources deprives marginalized students of the assistance they desperately need to succeed academically and socioeconomically, so it isn’t just a matter of distrust or lies. It perpetuates a culture of shame and stigma surrounding poverty, making it more difficult for genuinely impoverished students to seek assistance or advocate for their needs. It creates a hostile environment where individuals are discouraged from openly discussing their socioeconomic status, further marginalizing those who are economically disadvantaged.

By co-opting the narrative of poverty, rich individuals may inadvertently silence the voices of genuinely poor students. When those who have never experienced poverty speak on behalf of the poor, they overshadow the perspectives and experiences of those who are actually directly impacted by socioeconomic inequality.

The first step? Stop telling POC and FGWC students what they should and shouldn’t be upset about. Their experience is always going to be more valid than the one you think they’ve had in your head. Eliminating all this “acting-poor” masquerade is the only action that will lead to meaningful dialogue and not hinder efforts to address the root causes of poverty within private academic institutions like Whitman.

It is important that we challenge the false narratives and work towards creating genuinely (key word) more inclusive environments where all students feel valued and supported, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

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