Wednesday, March 22, 2006


A few years ago there was a Seinfield episode that had one of the characters involved in a social experiment to test the idea that married men saw an increase in the number interested women while wearing a wedding band. True to form the character though normally unable to attract the opposite sex, found interest from a number of women, all whom made reference to his wedding band. In America the wedding band has long since been established as a symbol of fidelity and unity. Two morality issues that seem to become less common each year with the growing divorce rates, teenage pregnancies, and other child bearing out of wedlock.

In the spirit of the “social experiment” (along with the fact that I am impoverished enough to qualify), I spent a few hours at the Dayton Job Center interviewing and applying for public assistance. I hoped to develop a better understanding of how the system worked and why so many of my peers seemed content to live the lifestyle offered by the public assistance programs. What I was introduced to is a social system so inefficiently developed that it has ultimately evolved into nothing more than a trap. Public assistance has become a lifestyle in my community. Some people go to college, some work in factories, some get on welfare. (Some go to college and still get on welfare!)

I was assigned Food Stamps and instructed to report to a WEP (work experience program) in order to build skills and subsequent recommendations from the employer. Not once was I asked if I had any meaningful skill sets, the level of my education, nor what I held as a career goal. It was implied that I had decided to enter the system and allow the government to control my destiny as my income source and sole provider. In theory the idea of gaining skills at the WEP would be beneficial in a long term job search. Unfortunately skills like filing papers, data entry, and picking up lunch for the office are a long way from my expressed career aspiration of being an attorney. Not to mention the fact that I would be in essence volunteering for the minimum wage equivalent to food stamps. People often wonder why underprivileged communities never improve, why there is a trend of poverty within certain demographics that has carried on for generations, well here your answer! The system is set up to mentally degrade the people it is intended to serve. One feels incompetent, non deserving, and unenthusiastic to do anything. People in the system often accept their fate as determined by the benefits rationed off at the first of each month. Crime is a natural by product of life in this system. If you work in a job that pays more than minimum wage you become ineligible for benefits. Anyone that held a job in high school knows that $5.15 isn’t going to get you a pair of new gym shoes, let alone afford you the ability to care for your self. As a result many subject themselves to selling food stamps (fraud), selling themselves (prostitution), or even selling drugs (murder). A perpetual state of disorder results, young black boys and girls go to jail, and their children grow up without role models.

The experience left me humbled and motivated somehow to make a difference in this world. Where I’m from knowledge of seselfself motivation, self esteem and self perseverance are imperative characteristics to have for a chance at success. I make a habit out of leveraging my skills into opportunities and attaining my goals through success in those opportunities. I am goal oriented and willing to ask for what I want. I’m seeking a break from the seemingly predetermined life of a young black man in a crime ridden city. The chance of a lifetime lies with a seat in your program. I am an optimist that believes a shot for me is a step in the right direction for others from similar backgrounds.


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