Articles, Letters November 22, 2013

Learning poor

by Kai L. Chan

Letter to the Globe & Mail (November 19, 2013)

Reading this essay (What I learned in law school:  The poor need not apply (Nov 17, 2013)) made me think of my own story of escaping poverty and the challenges that are common for those of lesser means to overcome institutional hurdles.

Poverty meant I worked long hours in part-time jobs at restaurants and supermarkets as a student, while peers could devote themselves to studying or socializing. The part-time income disqualified me from student financial aid, even as less honest and affluent peers found ways to milk the academic loan system.

Coming from a family where my parents had just primary education and scraped by on minimum wage, I was clueless about the workplace for university grads, while my peers could rely on their family social connections to help them secure good employment.

Nevertheless, my story had a happy ending – I graduated with a doctorate and found gainful work that took me to Singapore, New York and now Dubai – though I know many capable people who were not as fortunate.

As reader Dianne Cooper (Talking Point, Nov. 16) notes, it should come as no surprise that fairness is not embedded in our society, since decision-makers are “walled off” from the reality that people in poverty face. Even well-intentioned leaders lack the empathy that is needed to help find solutions to a system that is inherently biased toward the privileged.

Kai L. Chan, Dubai

Letter as it appeared in the G&M

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