Why This Christmas Poverty Clickbait Is Terrible

A social experiment offered kids from poor families the choice of their own dream Christmas gift, or one for their parents. When did it become acceptable to use poverty-stricken children for Christmas clickbait?

Why This Christmas Poverty Clickbait Is Terrible

by Becca Day-Preston |
Published on

You’ve probably seen, by now, the heartwarming social experiment that sees low income kids from Atlanta’s poorest neighbourhoods offered the choice of their own dream gift, or one for their parents. It’s a Christmas miracle! All the kiddies choose to give their mums and dads a nice gift instead of getting Lego or an XBox! Proving once and for all that...

Wait. What does it prove? That within the hearts of the children of the poor there lies an unexpected kindness? That poor kids also like their parents quite a bit? That children living in poverty already know that life is a pattern of want and need and, for them, there’s a good chance neither will be satisfactorily fulfilled, certainly in the near future and perhaps for the rest of their lives?

All of them. In fact, mostly the last one.

I grew up poor. So poor that social workers once brought us food on Christmas Day poor. So watching this unfold, seeing it reported as inspiring clickbait and good clean holiday fun, really pissed me off.

First of all, you can call this a social experiment, but it’s being carried out not by behavioural scientists, but by a TV channel, UP TV, dedicated to creating ‘uplifting’ content. So let’s not lend it the credence of social science. That’s like me calling it a tech experiment next time I blow in the vent of my laptop to stop that weird screaming noise the fan makes when I’ve watched eight straight hours of* Say Yes To The Dress*.

This isn’t a social experiment. It’s a bunch of TV people with an expenses budget and an idea for a heartwarming segment that also happens to be unbelievably cruel. It’s also insulting and short sighted. Why wouldn’t you expect poor children to give, rather than receive, unless you’ve already made some sweeping assumptions about poor children?

I mean, the message that it is far more blessed to give than receive is, like, Christmas 101. The assumption that this might have somehow passed by the subjects of this cruel prank, is super classist and, for me, really troubling.

Let’s think about the reality of these kids’ lives, for a second. These kids are some of the poorest kids in Atlanta. Their families, we learn in one particularly sad sentence, mostly can’t afford Christmas trees. But they’ve been bombarded with the same ads and gimme culture as people who have money, so they know what’s out there, what other kids get as a reward for being born into the right family.

I know that feeling. I’ve felt that feeling, at Christmas, and when I was mercilessly bullied for having the wrong trainers, the wrong everything. After that feeling comes guilt. A huge, crushing guilt. And frustration too, that it can be so easy for so many people and not for you. In kid logic, that makes sense, by the way. Kids hate, loathe, abhor unfairness.

I’m not usually one to exaggerate for effect (OK, I do it literally every five seconds), but the people at UP TV who conceived, commissioned, staged, filmed and screened this are the absolute 100% biggest dickbags of Christmas 2015. The people in these videos are children. Why the hell would anyone do this to a kid? How could anyone?

To me, it doesn’t matter that the kids got to keep both gifts in the end. In the second that they thought they wouldn’t, when they were made to make a Santa’s Choice, they would have felt a combination of emotions I wouldn’t wish on anyone. All for the sake of going viral with a heartwarming tale of Christmas spirit.

Poor kids’ emotions are not your plaything. Poor kids are not your inspirational Christmas clickbait.

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Follow Becca on Twitter @Becca_DP

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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