Linda Tirado, writer of the super-viral blog post, "Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts," posed as a poverty-stricken mother and consequently collected over $60,000 in donations. She's been discovered as a fake and a fraud, but let's focus on why her brief life of "poverty" is not the kind of problem we should be worried about.

I don't know anything about poverty. Not personally.

I know about being broke. I know about not having enough money to pay all my bills on time, doing that thing where you only pay the late ones, or pay just enough to get them to leave you alone. I know about zero savings. I know about $4.54 in the checking account until the next payday comes.

I know about overdraft fees and late fees and the way it all piles on and on and on into a giant, deadening ball of dread, sitting on my chest at night, tormenting me in the wee hours of the morning: "How will we make it through the week on $40?"

But I don't know real poverty.

I grew up with a single mom. We were pretty poor, but never desperately so. We lived in decent houses. We ate good food. We had access to health care. Every year my grandmother came to visit and bought me school clothes. We had co-signers for loans. At one point we drove a mini-van with a duct-taped window.

But it wasn't poverty.

I went to private high school. I got tuition assistance and my parents pooled their funds. On financial aid and some parental help, I went to a good college. I spent my third year of university in Barcelona. After college, I worked for eight years in a law firm. I spent part of those years in grad school, earning an M.A. in English. Now I'm a freelance writer and (soon to be) English instructor. In June, I lost three out of my four sources of income, and my husband and I found ourselves in a rather tight situation.

But we have families with resources, so we got help. Some was given to us; some was borrowed. My mom has a home big enough to take in my family of five, so we're currently living with her while we sell our house and I look for work. We're falling back on our family until our feet are back on the ground. My education affords me a pretty good chance for a decent job in the future.

These are hard times.

But it's not poverty.

I understand this. Linda Tirado, however, does not understand this. She does not understand that being broke for part of your life does not make you part of the underclass, the working poor, people drowning in the relentless cycle of poverty.

She does not understand that being broke for part of your life does not make you part of the underclass, the working poor, people drowning in the relentless cycle of poverty.

You've probably seen evidence of Ms. Tirado's profound misunderstanding and ignorance. The whole damn world has seen it. Yes, she's the woman — now understood as a fraud — who wrote the viral blog post, "Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts," in which she talks about living in motels, killing cockroaches with toothpicks, unable to afford health care, unable to get a job because she doesn't look "nice enough."

She explains: "We don't apply for jobs because we know we can't afford to look nice enough to hold them. I would make a super legal secretary, but I've been turned down more than once because I "don't fit the image of the firm," which is a nice way of saying 'gtfo, pov.' I am good enough to cook the food, hidden away in the kitchen, but my boss won't make me a server because I don't 'fit the corporate image.'"

She explains how college is impossible for her and birth control/health care is basically inaccessible: "Free only exists for rich people. It's great that there's a bowl of condoms at my school, but most poor people will never set foot on a college campus. We don't belong there. There's a clinic? Great! There's still a copay. We're not going."

But above all, and this is the part of her story that I find the most disturbing, Tirado aligns herself with America's poor, situating herself in cross-generational cycles of poverty: "I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don't pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It's not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn't that I blow five bucks at Wendy's. It's that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be."

And that, my friends, is what makes this woman a horrible fake and fraud and profoundly ignorant specimen of humanity (not to mention, completely opportunistic. She set up a "GoFundMe" account and has scammed America out of over $60,000).

Since this post went viral, it's come out that she's a liar. She actually works as a political consultant and owns her own home. Incidentally, she wants to turn her daughter's room into a forest. Here's a direct quote from Ms. Tirado in October of this year: "I am turning my kids' room into a forest, because I own this house and I can. I've found some awesome tutorials on making tree stump and mushroom stools, but I'd be interested in any pictures or ideas that you guys have… I want them to want to play in their own spaces and leave my china cabinet alone" (Source).

These are not the words of the poverty-stricken.

She also attended private boarding school (only went to public school for half of 7th grade), traveled through Europe after high school, went to (at least some) college and was saved from her life of "poverty" by grandparents who picked her up and moved her into a trailer.

She was then able to use "family resources" (those are her words) to buy a home. Since the truth has come out, Tirado is back-pedaling like crazy: "You have to understand that the piece you read was taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not. I am reasonably normally lower working class. I am exhausted and poor and can't make all my bills all the time but I reconciled with my parents when I got pregnant for the sake of the kids and I have family resources" (Source).

I really want to rant and rave about this woman and her lack of soul and morality, ripping holes in her pathetic diatribe (Really? Stabbing cockroaches with toothpicks? Has she ever seen a cockroach? Those suckers are fast.), but I'm forcing myself to focus on higher issues. Believe me, it's not easy.

But ultimately, her character doesn't matter. It's more important that people understand the difference between Tirado's situation and the poverty she attempts to describe. Even if her piece was genuinely intended to describe the past (when she was poor) or in hindsight (which I don't buy for a second considering how quickly she set up that fund for herself), it still demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the critical issues surrounding long-term poverty and the cycles that perpetuate it across generations.

There are a few factors in Tirado's story that inextricably separate her from the desperate poverty she attempts to describe.


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First, education
: Tirado has one, and a good one. Beyond her formal academic education, she plays instruments. She speaks two languages. She's traveled the world. These experiences, education and abilities are passports for social and class mobility. She holds what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu refers to as "cultural capital," which is basically social currency beyond money.

Removed from inner circles of middle and upper classes, the working poor cannot "pass" as a member of the upper classes.

In other words, she knows how to hang with middle classes. She knows how to act, walk, dress and talk. She's hung out with the wealthy ("exclusive private" schools?). She's hung out with the educated. She may be down-for-the-count for a bit, but as soon as she gains a little access to upper classes, she will fit right in (which partly has to do with her race, which I'll address in a moment). Both the access and the maintenance of the elevated position is in part a result of this cultural capital. Cross-generational, seemingly inescapable poverty is perpetuated in part by a lack of education and cultural capital. Removed from inner circles of middle and upper classes, the working poor cannot "pass" as a member of the upper classes. They cannot enter. Tirado enters with ease. She does not own or recognize this privilege.


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Second, racial privilege
: She's white. Therefore, she enjoys white privilege. Poor or not, she reaps the benefits of the color of her skin, which, combined with her cultural capital, makes her far from the desperate poverty-stricken mother she claims to be. She speaks as if she's barred from the middle class, but actually she has the right education, the right background and the right skin tone to join it without difficulty.


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A central tenant of actual poverty is a total inability to "be saved" because there's nobody in the family to "save them."

Third, family resources: When things got rough for Tirado, her family swept her up and saved her, just as mine did for me. And yet, she claims she will "always be poor." No. Not true. Her family clearly has some level of wealth, enough at least to pull her out of her temporary poverty. This immediately ejects Tirado from the desperate problem of cyclical poverty. A central tenant of actual poverty is a total inability to "be saved" because there's nobody in the family to "save them." That's what makes it cyclic. Nobody in the family has wealth (home ownership, stocks, etc.) to cash in and help struggling members of the family.

So what about the actual poor?

Tirado is clearly a fraud pulling attention from the actual issues of poverty in America, and her disgusting self-promotion makes me think about the families out there living in actual poverty.

Those are the families we should be thinking of, working for, trying to help. Those are the families we should be concentrated on, to break the cycles of poverty actually barring children from health care, education and bright futures.

How can we help them? Volunteer at the local mission.

Adopt a family this Christmas.

Visit this website and learn other ways to help.

Remember there are children and moms and dads living in extreme poverty, right here and now, in America, and we're damn lucky if we're not counted among them.

More on social inequality

How to talk to your kids about white privilege
When will homophobic Americans realize the country has abandoned them?
How kids getting "free lunch" are also getting poorer health

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