The Myth of Meritocracy: How the Poor Are Being Kept Poor
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written here in the United States. It states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All people are created equally. But we are not treated equally in today’s society. Some people are treated better, simply because of their skin color, or their gender, or how much money they possess. These are the profound injustices that bring us here today.
This country was founded on the idea of the American Dream — the concept that, if a person simply works hard enough, they can achieve anything they like. We are a meritocracy. We believe that people get where they are in life because they deserved it, and because they worked hard for it.
This idea of meritocracy is a myth. It is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous concepts keeping power and privilege in place in today’s world.
Meritocracy is a lie. There are so many people in this country who work hard, and are getting nowhere . We have single moms who work two, three, perhaps four jobs to put food on the table. We have people who have to choose each month between whether they are going to pay the electricity bill or pay for their medications. We have people working 100 hours a week. And they still are struggling to make ends meet. They are living paycheck to paycheck. They are still poor. Hard work has gotten them nowhere.
We are taught that we earned where we are in life. We believe from a very young age that rich people are hardworking and intelligent. We are taught that poor people deserve to be poor. We believe poor people are lazy, they have no work ethic, that they are bumming off of the welfare system. It would be a lie, an injustice to walk up to a person living in poverty and tell them that, if only they worked a little bit harder, they could be successful.
We buy into these lies that rich people and poor people are fundamentally different kinds of people. And that is what traps us. The classism is systemic. It is a system that is meant to keep poor people in their place, so that social mobility is almost impossible.
Racism and classism are intersectional, and it is difficult to discuss one without the other. In the USA, about 12% of our population lives in poverty. While 10% of the white population lives in poverty, 20% of the black population lives in poverty. This is not just an issue about race and Black Lives Matter. This is an issue about the socioeconomic institutions that keep people trapped.
A new dawn in approaching. America is tired of the status quo. We are tired of racism and classism. We are tired of struggling paycheck to paycheck. We are tired of working so hard and never getting anywhere. We are tired of this system that keeps us chained down. Americans are tired of being hated, simply for being born into a system that we cannot control.
This country was not built by the wealthy. It was not built by the rich. This is a country built by the hard labor of the working class. For centuries people have come to this country, with a hope and a dream of becoming something. They built this country into what it was today. This country was founded from the blood, sweat and tears of our construction workers, our waitresses, our laborers, our convenience store clerks. We are a nation built on blue collar labor and minimum wages. This is our country, and we are taking it back. Evil works hard but the forces of love work harder. Our time is coming. And the disenfranchised of this country will be vindicated.
This is a transcript of my podcast, which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, and more. Click here to listen.