holzman_tweed: (Default)
[personal profile] holzman_tweed
As I went for lunch today, I walked past a man standing in front of the Park Avenue office building in which $client has their offices. The man is white, middle aged, and wearing a business suit. He is holding up a sign that states he is an out of work Marketing Executive and asks people to contribute $20 so that he can pay his rent.

Privilege works on several levels here. The most obvious is the fact that the police haven't arrested him or at least told him he has to do his panhandling someplace else.

Privilege also work on the level where the man feels that he is sufficiently desperate straits that of all the options open to him, asking strangers on the street for $20 to make rent is his best option; let alone appropriate in a city where most people asking for money are asking for "anything you can spare" so that they can have dinner that night. Or a place to stay for that night.[1] It should not be hard to see how the only way this makes sense is if the fellow is counting on his presentation as as "one of you respectable folk" to get a pass.

Of course, the fellow may have been an artist engaging in some street theatre.

[1] And, yes, some ask for that money so that they can get drunk or high and guess what -- I'm OK with that, too. If that's the only thing someone can do in a situation to ease their pain for just a little while, it would be beyond mean-spirited of me to deny it to them.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-22 06:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] supafrosh.livejournal.com
I'm in an unusually good mood and don't want to spoil it, so I'm just going to assume it's a street artist with a keen awareness of privilege, and tra-la-la my way through the rest of my awesome day.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-22 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nex0s.livejournal.com
I'd assume it was a scam, honestly.

Then again, I'm distinctly not swimming in white priviledge.

N.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-22 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sweh.livejournal.com
I dunno how much time you spend in midtown, but on a daily walk between 48th and 53th and Madison I typically pass 3 or 4 panhandlers; the same ones most days. So the fact that the police haven't asked this guy to move on (as far as you know) isn't an indication of privilege.

I'm not saying this guy doesn't have privilege (clearly he does), but that one of your indicators of privilege is skewed.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-22 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] holzman.livejournal.com
As luck would have it, I did a very similar walk today. (Specifically, Grand Central -> Park & 48th -> Madison & 48th -> Madison & 45th -> Madison & 49th) It's not an uncommon place for me to be, $employer is at Park & 40th and many of our clients are in the area. Most of the panhandlers I see are generally hunched down out of the way, trying to be visible to passers-by -- though a legless man doing a handstand at Madison & 47th impressed me. None of the other panhandlers were standing right at the steps to an office building.

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