"the Crime of Survival": Fraud Prosecutions, Community Surveillance, And the Original "Welfare Queen" (Section II GENDER AND PERCEPTIONS OF Deviance) (Fraud Case Against Linda Taylor Also Known As the Welfare Queen)
Journal of Social History 2007, Winter, 41, 2
Journal of Social History
This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
The welfare recipients collecting trash along New York highways in 1999 would easily have been mistaken for convicts by passing drivers. Recipients, working in exchange for their cash grants at around $1.10 per hour, had been issued orange prison jumpsuits as their workfare uniform. (1) In doing this, New York state forced onto women's bodies a graphic link to criminality that had circled them rhetorically for decades. The chain gang ritual broadcast recipients' marginalized social position and advertised the state's efforts to simultaneously punish and reform them. The spectacle rested upon commonly accepted beliefs that welfare recipients were lazy, sexually promiscuous, African American women who spawned the criminal "culture of poverty" in America's inner cities. (2) Encapsulated most often in the persona of the "welfare queen," these stereotypes have figured prominently in domestic policy fights during the past decades and were integral in rationalizing the elimination of the federal welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, in President Clinton's landmark 1996 "welfare reform" legislation. By tracing the genesis of the "welfare queen," this article investigates the key role criminal procedures played in enshrining these beliefs in popular mythology and how they clashed with--and silenced--the perspectives of welfare recipients. I explore the anti-welfare fraud initiatives in Illinois during the 1970s to illustrate that charges of criminality were critical to accelerating the stigmatization of welfare recipients. Although the structure of the economy and low welfare grants made extensive fraud unavoidable, the state responded to these conditions with criminalization and surveillance, instead of drastic social or economic intervention. The public spectacle of fraud prosecutions, mediated through a complicit media, further undermined support for the entire welfare program as heightened access to the program by morally and racially stigmatized parents dramatically increased welfare program budgets. These state initiatives directly challenged welfare activists' claims to state support by virtue of their roles as mothers, citizens, and consumers.
- 2,99 €
- Category: History
- Published: 22 December 2007
- Publisher: Journal of Social History
- Print Length: 50 Pages
- Language: English