You’re Not Poor So Stop Saying It

Photo by Chaz Delgado

Photo by Chaz Delgado

Unless you don’t have any type of social media (you weirdo), you know that the conversation surrounding privilege has been ramping up for the past few years. It’s an important conversation, but between all the Facebook rants and overly opinionated articles, it can be hard to really grasp.

There are plenty of types of privilege present on a college campus; White privilege, socioeconomic privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, and many, many more. For the purpose of brevity, let’s focus on socioeconomic for now.

Kids at Syracuse waltz across the promenade complaining that they’re just SO POOR on the daily. But we’re willing to guess that the people loudly exclaiming how broke they are with a latte in hand and the latest Yeezys on their feet are doing just fiiine financially. And there’s nothing wrong with that—at all. A lot of talk about privilege can quickly villainize all wealthy people, who can be awesome or awful just like anyone else. A quick shortcut for the Yeezy-wearers to becoming more awesome than awful is understanding and checking their privilege. But “check your privilege” is tossed around all the time, so what does it really mean?

It means that, as a person with various privileges (We have it. We’re 'Cuse students.), you need to remind yourself of that fact. That’s it. Super easy, yet not that many people on Syracuse’s campus seem to be doing it.

If you can feed yourself consistently, you are more privileged than the 42.2 million Americans in 2015 who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. So saying, “I can’t go out to eat, I’m too poor,” when really you’re just budgeting, makes you a bit of an asshole.

That isn’t to say that we don’t all fall into the trap. I catch myself saying “I’m broke” constantly, and I’m just absolutely not. The way that pop culture has made being poor a cute college student personality trait is damaging. Because there are around 50 million Americans living in poverty for real. Some can’t pay their water bill, and some don’t know where they’ll sleep tonight. We go to school in a city with one of the worst poverty rates in the country. There are students at this university who come from households that exist below the poverty line.

So we should get better. Most of us aren’t “so poor,” yet we throw the words around like they mean nothing. Meanwhile, the people struggling with money are doing so silently because their problems aren’t so cute and college, they’re real and scary.

Let’s agree as a campus to check our privilege. When we catch ourselves poor-mouthing, we should take a step back and think about all of the privilege we are lucky enough to have. We have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a little extra cash for just one more beer.