Our project entitled ‘Does it Only Happen to Me?’ contributes to the wider campaign to have socio-economic discrimination recognised as a tenth ground of discrimination in the Irish Equal Status Act. ATD Ireland recognises the wider societal benefits of a #10thGround: a more equal society, fair opportunities for all, and reduction of hurtful stereotypes and discriminatory behaviours. Our Socio-Economic Status (SES) project offers a platform for members and volunteers of ATD’s network to provide a space for people who experience socio-economic discrimination to communicate their stories. We are beginning to see our hard work pay off as the campaign to end socio – economic discrimination continues to be picked up and spread by individuals and agencies throughout Ireland. We have new funded projects in the works that we hope will further the campaigns dissemination to the public. These will concentrate on empowering those who suffer from this form of discrimination to tell their side of the story through creative means e.g. art and film. Whilst it’s legislation is currently being ‘reviewed’ by government we will continue to fight until it is ‘implemented’ in law. Equality must prevail!
What is the reluctance in society to see poverty as a major injustice and to acknowledge the links between social class, discrimination, and poverty?
Words by Paul Uzell (ATD Community Activist)
Even the dogs in the street know that poverty and socio-economic discrimination exist. Class discrimination is not new, it has always been around. There are many reports as well as academic evidence and statistics out there – locally, nationally and internationally, that allude to these issues. I find it gutting that so little is being done to make genuine change in society. It’s both a class issue and a misunderstanding.
I believe that the way in which the government and other powerful institutions do not recognise poverty as a major issue is a form of socio economic discrimination in itself. Once it is recognised as a grounds of discrimination – governments would need to change both how they interact with poverty and their policies regarding it.
Often government policies have created deep divides and given rise to situations of socioeconomic discrimination in communities. If this form of discrimination is recognised in equality legislation – it could be seen to threaten a certain type of persons position when it comes to power and class. The socio-economic separation in society is a divide and some people don’t want this to change. The haves and have nots. ‘We have privilege, we have power, we live in certain communities, we have access to certain amenities. We do things that our class allows that other people can’t do. We don’t want to let these people in. We don’t open the door.’ It’s a divide – a wall!
There is definitely a belief in some areas of society that some people don’t deserve a fair chance, good opportunities or equality. There is clear discrimination and people are actively doing it. By implementing socio-economic as a form of discrimination in the law we are asking the people that are discriminating to first acknowledge that and then to make a change.
We have to find a way to corner this and face it down. This discrimination can be based on arrogance and an ability to lord over people due to one’s class. It curtails some people in a false sense of security, comfort and belief that you are better than others because of where you were born, your school, the community you grew up in, the way you speak, your connections and your networks. To maintain that power, at the cost of others – is wrong. It is deliberately putting and keeping others down to keep yourself up. Socio – economic discrimination cuts off so many opportunities for people like me. It cuts off our avenues and ways out of poverty. It denies us access to quality education which then cuts off access to good jobs because you need good quality education to get those jobs.
It feels like we are ring fenced and not given the same opportunities as others.