Once Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made several tone-deaf statements about poverty on a May 24 Sirius XM radio broadcast, the folks at Dictionary.com decided to use something inarguable – the basics of the English language – to refute his claims.
“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind,” Dr. Carson told friend and radio host Armstrong Williams. “You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there.” Carson, whose job – among other things – is meant to focus on providing affordable housing and resources for impoverished Americans, quickly caught attention on social media for this sweeping generalization.
That’s where the dictionary comes in. In response to Carson’s interpretation of poverty, Dictionary.com tweeted the actual definition of the word.
Huh. We say poverty is the condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.https://t.co/HBXsKo83sQ https://t.co/IRdMSW93eC
– Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) May 24, 2017
One of these things is not like the other! Perhaps with a bit of linguistic research, Dr. Carson may come away with a more empathetic attitude toward marginalized communities. As somebody who grew up in poverty, one would expect that the secretary would entertain the idea that not every problem can be solved with a can-do attitude, even if his own story turned out successfully. At any rate, he’s surely regretting his poor choice of words – there’s no arguing with the dictionary.