The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



SYR themes disrespect rural poverty

Letter to the editor | Monday, October 14, 2013

Here are a few friendly suggestions for future SYR themes. Urban Poverty Formal. Brazilian Slum Soiree. Impoverished Immigrant Mixer. If the very idea of an SYR along these themes repulses and horrifies you (as it very well should), let me ask you a follow-up question, why are we okay having a dance with the theme of rural poverty? Although the SAO-approved theme for Knott Hall’s SYR this past weekend was “Americana” students preferred to call it the “White Trash Bash” as they asked around for a pair of “jorts” to borrow or boarded the bus bound for the dance at the RV Hall of Fame.
The population we casually call rednecks, hillbillies or white trash are counted in the US Census report as over 7.5 million Americans living in rural poverty. How many of the students who attended the “Americana” SYR have participated or are planning to participate in the Center for Social Concerns Appalachia seminar held over the fall and spring breaks? How many of these students, nevertheless, dressed in accordance with the very stereotypes this seminar attempts to invalidate?
There is no denying that there is a nationwide spotlight on urban poverty. We read about it in our classes, hear about it on the news and see it on the street corners of major urban centers. This visibility is why an urban poverty-themed dance would never even be suggested. But let us not forget about the poverty we can’t see. Let us not forget that one in five children who live in poverty are from rural areas and that the overwhelming majority of them will never escape it. Let us instead, strive to address the issue of rural poverty rather than deride and stereotype the population who fall victim to it. Let us be repulsed by the idea of a “White Trash Bash.”