Opting Out Without Disclosure: A Survey of How TANF Welfare Reform is Conducive to Perpetuating Prejudice of African-Americans
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Zucchino's motivation for writing the book was to discover if women on welfare were "worthy more of contempt or compassion, or something in between" (1997, 13). Like Zucchino, I too question whether women, specifically Black women, on welfare are deserving or not and trace one of the reasons they are considered "undeserving" to be linked with various stereotypes. My motivation for writing this paper is to explore the stereotypes historically associated with African-American women in welfare debates and the transition that has taken place with use of terms. Specifically, the focus is on African-American women who receive welfare being stereotyped as "welfare mothers" versus mothers on welfare, and how this stereotype has evolved into the term, "dependent mother." The distinction between the terms "welfare mother" and "mother on welfare" is that the term "welfare mother" labels a welfare recipient by their circumstance and devalues their identity as a mother as being different and inferior to other mothers due their receipt of assistance from the government. The term "welfare mother" gives the connotation that their interaction with the system, and not the degree of their commitment to their children, chiefly determines their parenting ability. The danger of using this type of terminology is that it ill-defines "good parenting" as being economically independent and not receiving financial assistance from the · government This invalidates the existence of a welfare state, which is to assist parents in providing for their families-not to ridicule them for needing assistance. Specifically, stereotypes of Black mothers on welfare are more likely to influence the welfare debate than those held of other groups. The National Race and Politics Study of 1991, found that beliefs about Black welfare mothers played a larger role in generating opposition to welfare spending than beliefs about White welfare mothers. Moreover, stereotypes about Black welfare recipients were almost twice as strong in predicting opposition to welfare as stereotypes of White mothers on welfare (Gilens 1999,98-99). Therefore, when tracing the evolution of stereotypes it important to keep in mind the "multiplier" effect that stereotypes of African-American recipients of welfare cast on the welfare debate.