After watching one full episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and reading an article about the family in the National Enquirer, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative has come to the conclusion that mom, June Shannon, is one of the undeserving poor.
Mama June, the matriarch, is 33 years old, and has four children by four different men, none of whom she married (Honey Boo Boo’s daddy, an ex con they call Sugar Bear, is shacking with them now). She has reportedly been in the welfare system all her life. What struck me most about this, from a sociological point of view, is this model of family formation — a strong matriarchy, fatherless children, men minimally involved in their children’s lives, the family supported in part by welfare – has long been a black thing. But as Charles Murray documented so persuasively in “Coming Apart,” this is increasingly the new normal for lower-income white Americans.
Dreher also shares a conversation he had with a white, southern, liberal friend about the problems she had with her black maid.
Then N. said something interesting. She said that her cleaning lady is constantly desperate for money. N. said she gives her extra when she can, but the cleaning lady’s dilemma is what you might call a systemic one. The cleaning lady is not married, and had a number of children outside of wedlock, as is the cultural norm where they live (where I live too). N. said there’s no way that the woman, hard as she works, will ever get out of poverty with so many kids, and no husband. N. said the woman’s life is such a mess, and is a mess in large part because of bad choices she has made, and continues to make.
Mr. Dreher then goes on to quote from an article by Megan McArdle, “There’s what I’d call the implicit conservative view, which is that poor people are not so much lacking in money, as lacking in the self-discipline to spend their money wisely.” Both Dreher and McArdle don’t seem to be endorsing this view and Dreher points out later that that he doesn’t think children should suffer because of the failings of their parents but in the end, Dreher and his liberal friend come to the conclusion that ”it’s hard to figure out a solution, or even the start of one.”
I’ve watched several episodes of this series and what I see is a loving family that may not be perfect, but they’re doing the best they can. The latest National Enquirer article brings us the scoop that June considered giving her oldest daughter, Anna, up for adoption and was a pretty lousy parent during the first years of Anna’s life. That a 15 year old child would be ill-equipped to raise a child shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. If we want to start figuring out a solution to poverty in America, reducing teenage pregnancies should be number one on the list. According to Advocates For Youth, teen birth rates are much lower in Europe compared to the United States and their campaign to adopt less judgemental and more comprehensive sexual education would seem to be a good first step.
I also disagreed with the characterization of June as a single mom since David ‘Sugar Bear’ Thompson has been her common-law husband for the last eight years and he has a full-time job in the chalk mines. That seems to negate the argument that all women need are men to support them. What women and men both need are jobs that pay a living wage so that government doesn’t have to subsidize the private sector in order for their workers to be able to afford the basic necessities like food and housing for themselves and their families.
And one of the ironic things to me is that some of things June is made fun of for, like eating road kill, shopping in dumpsters and couponing are actually examples of ways she does try to stretch her money as far as she can. Her family recipe for “sketti” shows that she learned these money-saving skills from an early age. Only a mother who’s stared into the refrigerator at the end of the month and found only a half a bottle of ketchup and some butter could come up with this recipe: