There are times when I regard members of my own family as if I’m one of those disgruntled taxpayers who imagine welfare recipients living lives of ease and vice. They think most welfare moms do drugs, drop out of school, spend money on hair dye and cigarettes rather than milk for the kids and have multiple babies with men who shirk both marriage and employment. A lot of people are ready to push women on welfare into the work world even if that means their children will wander unsupervised through our cities’ meanest streets. These derelicts can’t be helped, people tell themselves, and close their wallets. I understand their attitude. Why do some poor people replicate mistakes they surely hear others operatically lament? Oh yes, I, too, sometimes want to confront women who wedge children into the world without having the resources to care for them.
. . . My six siblings and I grew up haphazardly loved and sometimes punished for being alive because our mother, except for being white, fit the stereotype of a welfare queen, reviled by herself, politicians and the general public. Such a queen may breed needy, unwise brats, it is true, but she also raises future citizens like all others—flawed and aspiring toward something better. Our lives have been shadowed by minimal and missed opportunities, too many mistakes, misalliances and miserable memories. Yet, over time, a sense of possibility has emerged. Several of us are thriving and able to help others survive because we refuse to accept family habits and inherited disadvantages as if they are destiny.
– Welfare Brat A Memoir by Mary Childers
Comment by Andrew Hacker, author of Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal