Open Letter From A Poor Ghetto Revolutionary
For most of my life, I had been ashamed of how impoverished my life was. I hid it from most people. I tried my best to exemplify what was associated with “wealthier” people. I spoke “proper” I rejected friends I thought were too hood/ghetto. I dated older men because I assumed I was too advanced for guys my age not realizing I was being victimized by older men who preyed on young girls. I hid a pregnancy/abortion in high school and shamed classmates for being “baby mommas.” I hid the fact I struggled to go to school because I had to work. I hid the fact that most times I was homeless or hadn’t eaten and greatly appreciated when someone didn’t want their food at lunch. I shielded my shame with violence, always ready to fight anyone who “disrespected me.”
I was insecure, unhappy and found no motivation in school so I dropped out and got a GED. I can remember sitting in Kennedy King college to take a GED class and getting sent to the guidance counselor because I was being disruptive. She looked at my test scores(they make you take a test before you start GED classes) and then asked me “why are you here?” I told her I dropped out of school and needed to get my GED. She then asked, “Are you pregnant?” I said no. “Are you joining the military?” I said no. She pulled out a form filled it out and told me to sign it “Here, sign this you don’t need to be here you’ll just distract everyone else, you test high I don’t know why you are dropping out of high school but just go directly to take the GED.”
I was happy as hell to get out of 6 weeks of GED classes. The fact is intelligence or excelling academically was never a struggle for me, my struggle was always being broke. Like most people, the things that were being told to me about working hard doing well in school never addressed my reality of being raised by a poor single mother of 3 on the south side of Chicago. A reality that so many experiences but are often ignored and like most poor people I had relatives that were well off and had good jobs and like most people those well-off relatives looked at us poor ones as beneath them. As people who were deserving of the conditions they faced. Many of those well-off individuals extend on my father’s side, a father I never met once in my life. Of course, I felt insecure that maybe I had “daddy issues” which is total bullshit but like most people I held those ideals as true and often felt shame.
I often ran away from home, my relationship with my mother was atrocious. I can remember when she called the police on me because we got in a fight. We lived right across the street from the Mosque on Stony Island. She and I stood outside talking to the police, she explained how I was being a terrible child and she was trying her best. The police officer looked at me and asked what do you have to say? I replied, “I want to be an emancipated minor.” I don’t know if the officer was shocked at my reply or the fact I knew what that was. He looked at my mom and said “If that’s what she wants then you should grant her that”, and they left. Of course, my momma was having none of that and the following years I would continue running away, fighting and getting the police called. Like most poor people my grandparents were the rock that held everything together. My grandmother had to financially help us so many times. It was no surprise when she died I wrote a letter to my mother expressing the shame and hatred I had for her. I blamed our poverty on my mother, I felt she never tried hard enough, that she didn’t care enough. I handed that letter to her at my grandmothers funeral and that would be the last time we spoke for three years!
At this point, I was a mother myself(unplanned) and experience quickly showed me that no matter how hard I worked I could never get out of debt. Child care expenses, rent, food etc., the bills continued to pile up! Going through the experience to birthing classes alone. There was a woman who used to attend with her daughter who would look at me with such pity. Every week for about 8 weeks I attended that class by myself. At the last class, she walked up to me and gave me a card. She looked at my eyes full of tears and said “I’ve watched you every week sit here by yourself with no one and you keep your head up. You are so strong, I don’t know what your situation is but your child is so lucky to have a mother like you.” She hugged me, called her daughter over to hug me and told her daughter “Don’t worry it will be ok.” I’m sure she meant well but it made me feel like utter shit. My guess was, her daughter who looked young was concerned about how hard it would be and I was an example of how worse it could be. To not have anyone supporting you throughout the process. During my pregnancy, I would go to counseling to prepare myself for the life of single motherhood. I can remember the therapist saying at our last session(It was close to my due date) “I have never met anyone so aware as you, so intelligent. I don’t understand why you are here but you should consider a degree in psychology and when you get that degree call me, don’t call me before you get it but when you do call me.”
I’m sure she meant well also but what she was referring to was every week when we met I rejected any attempt she made to assure me that life will not be hard. I didn’t know this at the time but I was very class conscious. The only thing I wanted her to do was to help me mentally transition into the reality of struggling as a single mother. I didn’t want a pipe dream, I didn’t want to hear about invisible resources I simply wanted to not have a mental breakdown and be strong enough to struggle for my seed. Having gone through postpartum depression and managing it alone due to the fact I took classes and read books. Many times I left the room when my son was crying a method I learned from reading on postpartum depression to avoid harming your child. The stress of trying to breastfeed because I want the healthiest option, working every day and operating on very little sleep because I had a newborn that I had to take care of alone.
I remember connecting with my ex-best friend via Facebook who was like a sister to me, the closest person to me who knew how poor I was and what I went through. A person who I secretly judged because I wanted her to “want better” for herself as if the person she was had nothing to do with the poverty and oppression she dealt with. Ignoring that who she was, was completely FINE. I apologized to her for not understanding how hard it was for her to be a teenage mom of not one but two children and that I was totally inappropriate.
Most people look at people in the ghetto and make assumptions about who they are. Many people FROM the ghetto try to hide that reality from the public, to pretend that poverty isn’t a factor for their lived experience. People who may not have a job or go days without food or come off as hood. It was this experience of me being from the ghetto, being broke as hell all my life, yet desperately trying to exemplify wealth and prestige. It was this experience of seeing how black people who had a little more treated those of us that had less. Hating those type of people while fighting to be in the ranks of them. Only through realizing what my instincts had always told me that poverty is systemic and not due to the actions of individuals. Only upon realizing that once you are born into a certain economic class often times you stay there and as someone born into extreme poverty till this day I am still there.
Why? Am I not intelligent enough? Do I not care enough am I irresponsible? The fact is poverty exists because we live in a political, social and economic system that artificially creates poverty for the rich and elite to maintain power and control. Capitalism. A system that is going to prove to be the greatest mistake of the ruling class. I could have been the greatest proprietor of neo-liberal capitalism. I could be making billions for a corporation but like many people, I don’t even get the chance to help them uphold their own system by being completely structured out of fully participating in it. The structuring out has led me to realize that the system fundamentally has to be abolished and a new one in place. That system I will spend the rest of my life fighting for. A system where everyone can have access to basic human rights, globally. A system that doesn’t need hierarchy or competition. A system that isn’t profit-driven and divides the working class artificially.
That system is Socialism and this ratchet ass hood baby momma will continue to fight for it.
A ghetto revolutionary
Edited by David P Fenelus
Darletta Scruggs, an organizer with the Chicago Socialist Alternative, and Movement for Black Lives. You can follow Darletta Scruggs on Twitter @Lettaspeaks and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/highlite09