Born Poor In Louisiana…
You’re born to a single parent/never married family living in government subsidized housing and reliant on WIC/SNAP. Your slumlord keeps your property in complete disrepair because there are no other housing units near you available. Your guardians tried to take the slumlord to civil court but legal representation, filing fees, court timing, and lack of power of the judges has prevented anything from really happening to your downtrodden home.
Your neighborhood lacks quality public transportation, so your guardians are reliant on unreliable transportation. You live in a place where the closest grocery stores that have healthy foods are too far to walk/bike. You’re raised on fast food and convenience store items. Without safe local parks and living in unsafe areas, you stay primarily indoors. One of your family members is being abused (maybe it’s you). DCFS has failed to investigate your family properly or has been unable to remove you from the family due to lack of better options. The social worker assigned to you is overloaded with thousands of families and struggles to ever make home visits.
You finally make it to kindergarten. Since your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents are/were uneducated and government reliant, you weren’t taught much at home. You come to school completely unprepared to deal with other kids because your social exposure as a child was low. You don’t know how to count, you don’t know colors, and you don’t know the alphabet. Your school is underfunded and with budget cuts most extracurricular activities besides sports have been cut. Your teachers are underpaid, overworked, and under qualified to handle the totality of your problems.
Your state starts building prisons based on your 3rd grade class’s failure rate to estimate capacity needed. Thankfully, you qualify for free breakfast and lunch, but when the holidays and summer breaks roll around you go hungry when your uneducated guardian can’t budget money appropriately. Unfortunately, your serving sizes for breakfast and lunch aren’t enough to keep you satiated so you’re hungry all during class and struggle to stay awake.
Since you know nothing about nutrition, proper exercise, or personal healthcare, you turn to underfunded clinics for your problems or if it’s bad like a flu, you go to the emergency room. But you have such difficult experiences there that you stop trusting the healthcare system.
Then it happens, one of your friends or relatives die from a domestic violence situation. Because you’re a kid, you don’t get bereavement. You’re just expected to go back to school like nothing happened. You’re hurting. You’re scared. You understand death for the first time. Then something bad happens in the neighborhood and you call 911 like you were taught to in school. The police don’t show for an hour and half. You watch as a bad situation gets worse and as people circle around recording it with cell phones.
Since you’re emotionally a mess, taught no coping skills, have no extracurriculars to keep you busy, your community lacks male role models to provide stability, and you learn your culture from television, you discover that you can feel physical and emotional comfort with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and/or another person. You were never provided sex education. You don’t have access to contraceptives. You were normalized to think teenage pregnancy is normal. You receive a self esteem boost from feeling desirable. You get someone pregnant or get pregnant yourself. If you’re a female, you can’t get an appointment with a gynecologist or ob-gyn because you don’t have money, the wait list is long, and there just aren’t that many in your community.
You know you’re not prepared to have a kid, but you’re determined to do the best you can as a parent. With your high school diploma, you end up working as a store stocker at night and service industry by day. Your car breaks down and you end up in the cycle of payday loans but can’t get out of it because of the interest rates. You come up with a business idea but none of your friends or family have money to loan you. Banks won’t give you a small business loan because of the neighborhood you live in and your lack of education. After being exhausted and made fun of by your family and peers, you fall trap for a get quick rich scheme. You do something illegal. You end up getting arrested. You can’t afford proper legal representation. Since you live in the state with the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, you end up in jail.
Your kid goes without his/her parents. But your story doesn’t end. You finally get out of prison after having to do things to emotionally and physically survive that change you. You can’t get your old jobs back because you’re a felon. You start doing work for cash. You do whatever you can. You sell your body as a laborer or worse a sex industry worker. But you get worn out or screwed over. You start selling drugs, burglarizing houses, robbing stores, or anything that will make you a buck. You get caught up into gang culture because it provides you stability that you haven’t had before in your life. Your kid who you just got back gets taken away because your behavior.
When other gangs start threatening your new found family and new found stability, you retaliate in the only way you know how. You end up in prison again. You’re on death row. Your kids visit you once or twice a year through glass. They eventually stop coming. Your public defender is inept and you end up in the cycle of appeals costing the state $1.1m just to execute you. After your execution story is posted online, pro-life south Louisiana Catholics comment on Facebook about how you deserved it.
What makes this worse is that all the infrastructure that could have helped you can’t be afforded by the state because none of the large corporations are owned locally. All of the state’s resources (oil, gas, ports, seafood, tourism, casinos, etc.) are owned by multi-national conglomerates based in major markets because of rights deals done by generations of corrupt politicians that came long before your time. These problems are made even worse when your governor is driven to run for the presidency as a Republican so he refuses federal funding, cuts taxes 3 times, and drains all the funds set aside for specific problems to balance the budget. Then in response to your governor’s and legislators’ actions and words against the federal government, the federal government retaliates by making it harder and harder for your state to get funding.
Now your orphaned kids… are far worse off than you ever were.