This fine place so close to home

Thanks to Paula Stone for this week’s article; are some children seen as more important than others in our society?

 

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Author’s photo

 

Since reading the article in the Guardian on 25thMarch “Too poor to play: children in social housing blocked from communal playground” I have been deeply, deeply troubled. The story reports how a housing development in London is segregating the children of the social housing tenants from those of wealthier homebuyers by excluding them from some communal play areas – whilst discharging their duty to provide play space for under-fives by providing a small strip of toddler play equipment specifically for the social housing children.

In subsequent articles published by the Guardian it seems that this housing estate is not alone in its practices.

As someone who grew up in socio-economic deprivation in the 1960s, and lived on a council estate as it was known then, I do not recall any social segregation between rich and poor; we all just played on ‘the green’. But it seems that negative and deficit depiction of people from lower socio-economic groups has become even more evident in the present day with a widening in the gap between rich and poor. There now seems to be an expectation that the working-class show deference to their more affluent peers as clearly illustrated in this situation. The contempt and class blaming, what Owen Jones calls the ‘demonization of the working-class’ found in wider society is illustrated beautifully by one of the comments in response to the article

I think the social housing people SHOULD be kept separate. I live in a private part of a development, but the social housing children are awful. Antisocial behaviour, vile language, litter, vandalism. I wish I lived in a development that did restrict where they could go!

The way that we, as social beings, are treated and learn to treat others can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves and other people well into adulthood. In both, the practices of the housing development and in this comment above there is a suggestion of working-class being the inferior ‘other’. This can only leave a lasting legacy on both the poor children who will inherit feelings of subordination and marginalisation and the wealthier children who will grow up thinking that it is acceptable to demonize a group of people because of their lack of social, economic and cultural capital. We all need to challenge practices like this.

This story does have a happy ending – following widespread condemnation the children from the social housing have been ‘granted’ permission to play in the playground and the wall has been removed. Does this improve the situation? I suspect it will for the future residents; but for those already living in both parts of the estate the damage has been done.

What does this situation say about how we treat each other in 21stcentury? How can we, as adults, make sure that everyone is seen first and foremost as human beings regardless of gender, race, disability and class.  What small things can you do to encourage and celebrate diversity?

 

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