Coping Strategies of Poor Women in the Deep South

I will be brief: A humane society does not effectively force segments of its population to engage in dehumanizing coping strategies under the guise of picking one up by one’s bootstraps.

What leads me to write this diary are the faces and plights of three women in the Deep South whom I have come to know in the last week alone. One is a middle-aged African-American woman who prostitutes for a living, desperately wants to be drug-free but just failed a stupid drug test administered for no good reason by a state engaged in fighting the immoral Drug War, which treats economic, medical, and social problems as criminal matters, so that now she can go back to jail and leave her children to cope without her. Another is an early twenties “white” woman who was neglected by her drug addicted mother as a child, was given the great opportunity of going to a charter school where the county now shuttles its low income problem students, dropped out of school, and who, for a time, found promising work in the exciting career of removing her clothes for and rubbing against the groins of ogling drunk men, but who now, about to give birth to her first child in the county jail, where she was placed after being picked up for an old violation of probation relating to petty theft, is “out of work” and has lost the only thing she owns, a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. [UPDATE: The petty theft charge is interesting. A couple years ago, she attempted to steal from a Walmart $50.52 in children’s clothes and $6.00 worth of children’s cupcakes to give to a destitute friend who had nothing for her own child’s birthday party.] Another is an early twenties African-American woman who no longer is able to strip for a living in the Deep South at another nearby club because she got into a fight with another stripper and lost her job, for which she now sits in jail on a battery charge. What a shame to give up such a promising career in a moment of reckless temper tantrum-ing. She should have kept her cool and put in perhaps another ten or fifteen years in this promising career before the ogling fine Christian “white” drunk men would no longer pay her for just dancing and lap dances.

Okay, so these coping strategies of poor women in the Deep South are not that different than those of poor women in virtually any other place in the world without a real “right to work” and a decent social safety net for all people. And these coping strategies of poor women are not that different than those of many poor men, and did I say children, in the same areas. And these coping strategies are not limited to minority communities. Here are photographs of my mother’s half-siblings, “Scotch-Irish” American persons who adopted “coping strategies” in Opa-locka, such as “modeling,” prostitution, stealing, and, to ease the pain, taking drugs, and selling drugs, only one of whom was a woman, and all of whom, born of Deep Southern parents transplanted from the farm after the war, were actually raised in greater “Miameh,” as the Deep Southerners of South Florida once called it.


The Deep South just loves pick yourself up by your bootstrap coping strategies, so I give it specials props. The common symptom is lack of full employment and a societal guarantee of adequately meeting basic human needs, and the cancer is neoliberal human-using capitalism, exported around the world or, as with the Cuba blockade, otherwise seeking to impose itself and turn islands into Rush Limbaugh crotch-servicing lands of opportunity to be exploited. I like picking on the Deep South, which is where I live, because it is the most notorious union-busting place in a union-busting country, in a region that professes to “worship women” and “God” and “value work.” I like picking on a place, such as my state, that refuses to extend Obama-care to the poor pregnant woman picked up on a nothing two year-old violation of probation charge who is no longer capable of dancing at a strip club because she is now about to have her baby in jail. I like picking on a place that increasingly finds ways to squeeze profits from the poor through privatized prisons, zealous criminal “justice” system cost-collecting private probation service companies which make money only by taking it from the poor, and revoking the drivers licenses of the poor if they fail to voluntarily pay up for the system’s costs with their coping strategy wages and tips, so that they can remain in the system forever when they get pulled over for trying to drive their old beat up car to “work,” if they can find “it,” as if the Drug War against the poor alone were not enough.

The “right to work,” as Grey Fedora points out from the relatively enlightened location of Seattle and Puget Sound, is a framing issue the 1% long ago won in the U.S.

This theory of “coping strategies” is not some far-fetched left-wing conspiracy. It even has the seal of approval of the USDA, which, for reasons of jurisdiction, prefers to call the issue one of “food security”:

Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum: • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).

It is time to build a decent world society folks. Now go to work, if you can find it.

[Originally published at Francisco’s Galtisalie blog at Daily Kos on February 25, 2014. Just now getting a chance to republish it here. is slowly building its own audience and sometimes reaches different readers around the world. I publish or republish pieces here I think might be beneficial and consistent with the website motto. Regards, Francisco]

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