Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad have done an amazing job of elucidating the issues faced by African American families in the past few years. Theirs is a story of being classless, of being middle class and falling into a black hole. Unemployed and underemployed, in strong jobs earning substantially one day and unemployed the next.
I can relate to this story on many levels. I was working as a political appointee to the mayor of a major US Capital city for over 5 years. During that time, I developed a disability - bipolar disorder. In the beginning, it was a relatively easy transition - my boss, the chief of staff, was accomodating, as the ADA required him to be - the subsequent chief of staff was equally accomodating - I shall never forget his kindness as I wrestled with mood swings, exacerbated by stress and numerous changes in medication. Unfortunately for me, the last chief of staff had a sister who was bipolar. She was always "on and off her meds" and " in and out of jail" - how do I know that? Because he told me so in a closed meeting in his office. I filed a grievance against him and did not prevail - I naively thought that the system would work in my favor.
I subsequently became unemployed when I could no longer work in such a stressful environment with an overbearing and discriminatory boss - I resigned under great duress. I loved my job and made an above average salary for a woman.
I am now homeless, living doubled up with my mum - it is a wonderful place to live, please don't misunderstand me - I just want to make it very clear that I am homeless, statistically speaking, nonetheless. I am moving out to my own place in December and shall miss my mum - she has been my friend, roomate, confidante and rock.
Some of my black brothers and sisters are not as lucky - indeed a classmate is a former employee of UBS - she is living in a hotel with her family after having lost her home as well after becoming unemployed.
That story we hear about - 1 paycheck away from the streets - as a former volunteer at the homeless shelter, and as a person who was forced from her home as she could not commit to a one year lease - I can testify to that.
If you have the means, please donate to your local shelters and foodbanks - if you have family in transition and have the space, please, please, please, take them in.
Just more food for thought and one person's opinion.