This photo inspired a lot of reaction when it ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
The piece was actually on the potential environmental impact of the demolition of a building near the project; however, a lot of the reaction came from readers who decried the fact that a boy in public housing would have an iPad. Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry wrote about the controversy and the idea that there are certain things that are thought to be appropriate for those seen as poor (particularly those benefiting from government programming) to have and certain things like an iPad that are seen as inappropriate.
DeBerry lists a range of items judged to be expensive or otherwise inappropriate for the poor:
“Fancy rims have been known to set me off. Maybe for you it’s gold teeth, Air Jordans, the latest mobile phone. City Councilwoman Stacy Head used her taxpayer-funded phone to send an outraged email when she saw a woman using food stamps to buy Rice Krispies treats.”
He then goes on to look at the vindictive, unkind tone of many of the responses to the photo and take the writers to task. However, the larger question remains, what right do observers particularly taxpayers have to criticize? I could look at the photo and say that the iPod shows the availability of hundreds of dollars that should have gone toward rent thus perhaps enabling the family to move out of the projects. But that would be a huge stretch based on a large basket of assumptions. Who can get out of the projects for the cost of an iPad? Where did the iPad come from? Was it a gift? The questions can go on and they are really none of my business. Who am I to invent a hypothetical family situation and then use that hypothetical situation as a launching point for ill-informed opinions?
I know it is easy to project value judgments and assumptions, I think this photo and the subsequent discussion show the virtue of knowing what one does not know and thus knowing when not to judge.
In this morning’s paper I read a blurb about a billboard for Tidy Cat Kitty Litter that implied that a neighborhood in Cincinnati stank. It seems it was part of a “No More PU” campaign highlighting things that stink in life. The blurb did not state the neighborhood, but I was afraid it might be an inner city location, perhaps majority minority. And I was kind of right. It was the Over the Rhine neighborhood defined and explained by one post as:
“The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, just north of downtown Cincinnati, experienced race riots about 10 years ago but has since experienced significant revitalization. The neighborhood has seen a 29% decrease in crime since 2001.”
and by Julie Irwin Zimmerman in another post as:
“As wealthier people moved out of the downtown basin, where Over the Rhine is located, the neighborhood became predominantly Appalachian first, and then almost entirely African-American, with most of the black newcomers pushed out of other neighborhoods due to the construction of interstate freeways. The neighborhood grew very poor and basically almost emptied out; it lost most of its population in recent decades, and the beautiful old buildings there fell into disrepair. If you’ve seen the movieTraffic, OTR is where the daughter went to buy drugs. That’s the offensive part, I think, assuming that a poor, black neighborhood smells bad.
You should also know that in the past decade or so there’s been a huge gentrification and revitalization push and many of the buildings are being restored. (OTR at one point was on the National Preservation Trust’s list of most endangered places because it has the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the country and many were close to passing the point of repair.) Many buildings have converted to condos with young professionals and empty nesters moving there, and restaurants and shops have followed and are packed. The lame part to me is calling it “the Over-the-Rhine.” It’s like saying “the Georgetown” or “the Lakeview.” It’s just Over-the-Rhine. So to answer your question, no polluted water or garbage dump, perhaps the slightest strain of historical reference, but mostly it just sounds like a sort of fearful suburban view of a mixed-income urban neighborhood.”
This information made me wonder as the to the intentions of the ad. Were they working from an old idea of the neighborhood thinking of it as a downtrodden location that in their biased opinion, stank? Were they trying and failing to make a hipster joke? Whatever the case may be, I do believe that this kind of campaign would not be launched targeting a well-off suburb.
Identifying garb for a human hotspot
Cannot believe this idea from SXSWi. Homeless individuals will be equipped to be walking hot spots for pay per use wifi connectivity. To quote a piece in Wired:
“In Austin, BBH Labs is partnering with Front Steps Shelter to equip people from Front Steps’ case management system with 4G MiFi devices to serve as pay-per-use hotspots for attendees at SXSWi. People in the program wear T-shirts reading:
I’M [FIRST NAME],
A 4G HOTSPOT
SMS HH [FIRST NAME]
TO 25827 FOR ACCESS
What a horrible idea, turning the homeless into walking utilities. This is such a disturbing notion. Consider the language of the T-shirt. It’s not I can provide a 4G hotspot; it’s I am a 4G hotspot. I am not a human. I am a conveniently located ambulatory communications device. Supposedly this initiative will raise donations for the shelter involved, but still consider the hierarchy established her. On the one hand the sophisticated conference goer with his or her technology, on the other hand the human hotspot who is merely a bearer of technology. I know I am projecting a lot of my opinions here. Perhaps all those involved are fine with the partnership, and I am an ignorant outsider who should be quiet, but still this sounds like a bad science fiction story.
Years ago Paul Fussell published his “Living Room Scale,” a way to evaluate one’s living room, and by its contents determine one’s standing in the American class system. Here is a link to a slightly modernized version. I took the test, and our living room scores in the “middle class range.” We lose points for having family pictures not in sterling silver frames but gain points for a potted palm.
Not our living room.
The test does imply that one has a living room, a kind of showcase room in which one does not actually conduct the business of living. Hence, the presence of a TV, stereo, or computer loses points.
I wish there was a way the test distinguished between having books on display and having books on display that one has actually read. I do admit that is a bit of English teacher snobbery though. As time moves on, I wonder how this test might be modified. For example, should point values be changed for magazines as publishing declines? Will having actual copies of magazines reflect a greater level of wealth when they grew rare?