Buzzwords and Labels

Jenny Carroll
Sociology 110
Matthew Maher
In Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary poverty is defined as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. We all have heard the terms used to describe the underclass, but are these buzzword or labels harmful to our society?In the reading Deconstructing the Underclass written by Herbert Gans, discusses the effects of buzzwords or labels. I believe that although buzzwords and labels may seem harmless, they are very judgmental and undeserving.

When asked, what types of people is included in the underclass? People automatically think, black, Hispanic, or even singe mother. This is a direct judgment on race or character. These labels are dangerous because they can be used to persuade others. I think that when you label, that it is very possible to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. How would you feel, if you thought society would much rather throw you away?
Planners have tried to implement programs to help the underclass with their problems, mostly being economic. But there are a lot of factors involved; no one program has been effective in decreasing poverty. Although, I do think that planners have to be careful, they tend to define neighborhoods as being predominately underclass. Therefore posing another problem of social isolation. In which, people are making a better way of life, move out of this labeled area, and the area becomes more and more isolated with the underclass.
I think that the underclass fit into two of the five themes. Historically and Geographically/Globally Contextual, in the past underclass have lived on the poor side of town. Therefore making a certain area over periods of time more isolated. And Power of Relations comes into play, “who has more than whom”. The definition of poverty should go beyond money; it should include the needs of a person in order to survive. Unfortunately, I don’t have many ideals on how to solve the problems of the underclass. But I do feel how we label people does effect our society.

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