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Jody Becker

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Why My Daughters Are Not Wearing Uggs

Posted: 12/13/2013 2:00 pm

I know that at times, it looks like I simply didn't get the memo.

For example, If you are an adorable girl living in one of many affluent zip codes around this country, a pair of Uggs is de rigueur footwear. I live in one of those zip codes. But my 8-and-10-year-old daughters know, for sure, that they will never, ever have a pair of Uggs.

The reason why is that it makes no sense at all for some little girls in America to be shuffling around in sheepskin-lined $100 (minimum) boots, while other little girls are homeless and struggling with life in ways that seem so unjust. The Uggs suggest a blind spot.

If you have been reading the New York Times series by Andrea Elliot about the life of Dasani, the homeless 12-year-old living in Brooklyn, as I have, there's no denying the punch in the gut that this person is real. She is a peer of our children. She deserves so much better than what life is giving her and, yet she is merely a poster child for this kind of harsh existence that is hard to label as childhood. Dasani stands for 22,091 homeless children in New York City alone, just like the article said -- about 5,000 more kids than could fit into Madison Square Garden for a hockey game.

The story is somewhat old-fashioned in its telling; we hardly get much journalism like this series any more, as the definition of journalism has changed over the past decade rather significantly. But when I did my "live in" profile under the guidance of Melvin Mencher at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in the late 1980's, this is what we were trained to do. Hang out, watch closely, stay out of the way, report. Dasani's story eerily echoes stories by two of my talented classmates who profiled families at one of the city's then-notorious welfare hotel-turned shelter, the Martinique Hotel in Herald Square.

I am not surprised to read Dasani's story. I know little has changed for many of the poorest people in our country over the past 20 years, except that the going got even tougher. And I know that no Uggs for my kids is not the answer. But I don't need to conspicuously tip the scales of injustice. When my kids begged for Uggs, we went to Target and got the $20 knock-offs. Even that is a privilege not every kid has.

 
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