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On being poor
People line up at a food pantry. The number of people in poverty rose in 17 states, the Census Bureau says.
September 20th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

On being poor

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) The Census Bureau released a depressing statistic Thursday: 46.2 million people in America fell below the poverty line last year. One in five children are poor. 

What does it feel like to live in poverty?

Writer John Scalzi knows.

He remembers a Southern California childhood marred by a broken family. His mother put her two children in the back of the car and drove away from the home they’d known.

She bought a box of Raisin Bran and warned her children: “That has to last.”

John Scalzi's essay on poverty was based on his own experiences.

Scalzi, 43, was in the first grade then.

Years later, the Raisin Bran memory became a line in an essay called “Being Poor.” He wrote it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when so many asked why the poor of New Orleans had not fled their drowned city.

It occurred to him then that wealthier Americans did not understand that the poor do not always have the luxury of choice.

But he knew.

He was the kid who wore the cheap shoes from Lucky Drug Store – the ones with the glued-on soles. He could feel them come off on the playground.

He was the kid who discovered letters from his mom to his dad begging for child support and the kid hoping he would get invited to a friend’s for dinner. He once stole a piece of meat from Ralph’s supermarket, fried it up and cleaned the plate before Mom came home. He then told her she didn’t have to make any dinner because he wasn’t hungry anyway.

Here are a few other ways Scalzi measured poverty:

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.

Read Scalzi’s full essay here.

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Filed under: Census • Economy • How we live • Poverty • Who we are
Feds accuse North Carolina sheriff's office of racial profiling
Sheriff Terry S. Johnson says accusations that his department racially profiled Latinos in traffic stops are "completely false."
September 20th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

Feds accuse North Carolina sheriff's office of racial profiling

By Gustavo Valdes and Thom Patterson, CNN

(CNN) – North Carolina pastor Otoniel Recinos has been offering an unusual warning these days to members of his church: Don't drive in nearby Alamance County. It's not safe, he warns them, because of the sheriff's department.

A two-year Justice Department investigation backs up what Recinos and other Latinos in the region say they've known for a long time: Traffic stops by Alamance County sheriff's deputies are sometimes part of a "pattern of racial profiling" aimed at searching for illegal immigrants, according to a statement this week by Thomas E. Perez, the assistant U.S. attorney general for the civil rights division.

Sheriff Terry S. Johnson has used offensive language when talking to Spanish speakers, the statement said, describing them as "Taco eaters."

Deputies were between four to 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers for traffic violations than non-Latinos, the Justice Department said. Many of the stops took place at traffic checkpoints organized by deputies near Hispanic communities. Latinos were arrested for violations, while others got only warnings or citations, the department said.

The Justice Department also said Hispanics who were jailed after their arrests were discriminated against because they were targeted for immigration status checks.

FULL STORY
Opinion: Kate's breasts, Pussy Riot, virginity tests and our attitude on women's bodies
The French publication Closer published photos of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, sunbathing topless.
September 20th, 2012
08:26 AM ET

Opinion: Kate's breasts, Pussy Riot, virginity tests and our attitude on women's bodies

Editor's note: Naomi Wolf is the author of "Vagina: A New Biography."

(CNN) - It seems as if we are in a time of unprecedented struggle over the meaning of women's bodies and sexuality. Controversy is swirling about an American University professor who breast-fed a baby in class; topless photos of Kate Middleton have been released; and a Time magazine cover showing a mother breast-feeding her toddler sparked even more tittering in May.

It is not just the breast that is contested: Pussy Riot, the punk band, was sentenced to two years in a Russian prison after a staged performance in which they did high kicks that showed too much of their bodies. They tried, from prison, to explain "what pussy meant" and "what riot meant."

Michigan representative Lisa Brown got into hot water - and fought back - for using the words 'my vagina' in the Michigan statehouse. Michigan women supported her by standing in front of the statehouse with a giant "V" symbol and spelling out the words 'VAGINA' in pink letters.

Young women in Tahrir Square protesting in the Arab Spring were punished by imprisonment - and vaginal exams by armed strangers for "virginity tests." This is not so surprising when you understand the delicate brain-vagina connection that my new book documents - female sexuality around the world is targeted because through traumatizing the vagina, you can intimidate women on multiple other levels.

What is going on?

Read Naomi Wolf's full column

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Filed under: What we think • Women