American Psychological Association President Rosie Phillips Davis visited SUNY New Paltz on Monday, April 1, to make a case that one of the most important collective actions we can take in the fight against poverty is to change our attitudes about impoverished people.
Davis, who is also professor of counseling psychology at the University of Memphis, focused her Distinguished Speaker Address on the subject of deep poverty, defined as situations where a household’s annual income falls below 50 percent of the poverty line.
Growing up as one of nine children in a household living at less than half the poverty line, Davis saw first-hand how hard it is for people in those circumstances to rise up, and how social stigma can make this struggle even more difficult.
“We blame poor people for being poor,” Davis said. “We blame the 200 million people in the world who are unemployed, who want to work when there is no work. We blame the nearly one billion people who live on less than $2 a day. We wonder why they are in that situation, why they can’t change it. How do we stop blaming and start delivering a little more hope, and a little more action?”
Since being elected president of the American Psychological Association, Davis has used her platform to call for argue that changing the way we think about poverty and its causes will be key to addressing the issue.
“We want to change attitudes and perceptions about people in poverty, we want to change practice and we want to change policy,” Davis said.