We live in a society where we come across various panhandlers, on our way to our schools, colleges, workplaces, etc. All panhandlers seem to have variable purposes for being involved in panhandling. Some panhandle for money to fulfill their needs like feeding themselves or their families stomach with nutritious or regular food. Others, however, panhandle to gain access to elements that prove to be toxic to the human body such as cigarettes, liquor, drugs like heroin, marijuana, and weed. The ones who panhandler to get access to toxic elements find pleasure in utilizing them, however don’t realize that such things wouldn’t bring any profit to them, but rather harm. Panhandlers tend to choose the location where it is more likely for individuals to pass by or come to such as metro stations and adjacent grocery stores. Some pretend to be needy, while others are actually needy. In any case, it is upon the society to decide whether they think a certain panhandler is needy or not, or if they should help them either way.
I did my participant observation on a panhandler near a grocery store, which was a block away from the Avenue Z, Sheepshead bay subway station, early in the morning. A white panhandler, holding a small box for money in one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other hand, was situated on a piece of cloth over an arbitrary spot of the sidewalk. She looked as if she was in her early or mid 50’s. Wearing filthy dark sweatpants, and a white sloppy turtleneck with a dark faded hoodie on top, she held out her box for money towards the public passing by.
Examining the surroundings, I came to find and anticipate, concerning why the panhandler had chosen the certain location. In light of the surroundings, one could foresee that the panhandler decided to sit near a grocery store, as various individuals in the neighborhood come to get their groceries every day. Moreover, she perhaps wanted to gain the further advantage of having more individuals pass by, therefore, sitting near a grocery store that was a block away from the subway station, which most individuals utilize, as their means of transportation to keep their daily-life activities and duties running. Doing my observation on the morning of Thanksgiving, I saw a sign next to the panhandler, which read out: ” Happy Thanksgiving! I would love to eat turkey on a Thanksgiving day in the United States, but only if I had enough money to feast myself with one.” Such indications of vulnerability appear to bring more individuals consideration and drives their sensitivity towards helpless people.
An important factor, which numerous panhandlers utilize is the revealing of vulnerability with the aid of one’s non-verbal communication. This is exceedingly noteworthy, as it is perhaps the basic thing that drives the sympathy of others aid. For instance, many of them wear torn dirty garments, to pick up the concern of passersby. Other than this, another thing could be eye contact of the panhandler with the provider. One thing I observed about the panhandler was that once she saw someone in particular passing nearer to her, she would say “Happy Thanksgiving,” wholeheartedly to the certain individual and along with that she would lower her cigarette, raise her box for money, and have a direct eye contact with the individual with an appearance of powerlessness all over, In this way revealing that she is very well devoted to her action and concerned with what the individual has to offer. Many passersby, who read the sign and saw her devotion towards striving in order to have a wonderful thanksgiving, would open their hearts to sympathy and put in as much cash as they felt like into her small box for cash.
Giving thought to the time of the day the panhandler had chosen, I believe that she chose the morning time since most people are off to their workplaces, colleges, and schools during the morning time of the day. Various individuals utilize the subway trains for transportation and many pass by the route of the panhandler, thus making it more likely for her to interact and get aid in the form of money from them.
In the middle of my observation, I saw a female passerby who saw the panhandlers sign and stood there for a few seconds to read it carefully, she then came back after approximately 30 minutes. She held a huge dish covered with a clean kitchen cloth in both her hands; steam rising from the dish accompanied by the mouthwatering aroma of freshly cooked turkey. She happily offered it to the panhandler, who seemed to be surprised in a frustrated manner. The panhandler, however, glared at the women, and then said that she already ate. When the women suggested on eating it later, she angrily yelled that she wasn’t hungry and therefore wouldn’t accept her food. The women then took out a dollar bill from her pocket and put it in the panhandler’s box, to which the panhandler seemed to be more satisfied with and later thanked her for it. Later, the women with a frown on her face, left with the food she had freshly cooked for the panhandler. A few minutes passed by when suddenly the panhandler got up and went into the grocery store. She came out with a fresh stick of cigarette and a lighter to lit her cigarette, and then started to smoke from her new stick of cigarette.
After completing my observation of a white panhandler, I’m positive that I could reveal the similarities and differences I found with Bourgois and Schonberg’s article: “Intimate Apartheid: Ethnic dimensions of habitus among homeless heroin injectors,” with those of the results of my observation. The article ” Intimate Apartheid” portrays panhandler from two variable cultures. The article relates to my observation to some extent. Based on the article, the first type of individuals, being white people don’t prefer to collaborate with people quite often. They just appear to be needy and that’s why win the sympathy of individuals, who then help them. My observation, being that of a white female panhandler, seems to be quite similar to the article’s prediction of white panhandlers. The second type of people are the African Americans who don’t have one specific place for begging, but rather beg on streets or near lanes. They interact with individuals by raising their voice and talking loud, requesting for aid. The difference is don’t mostly hold a sign with them the way white panhandler’s do by having such words as ” Help me please” and etc. My observation is much comparable with the article because it has similar characteristics to those of white panhandler. In the article it shows how the white panhandler always hold a flyer and my panhandler had a sign that said “Happy Thanksgiving! I would love to eat turkey on a Thanksgiving day in the United States, but only if I had enough money to feast myself with one.” Everyone’s behavior is different based on the teaching of their culture. Culture has a great impact on the behavior of individuals and plays a great role in leading to the stereotypical judgement of them based on it. African Americans and White panhandlers have distinctive styles of begging because of their different culture. They react completely different on such situation and they also present varying forms of expressions in the form of body language. According to statistical analysis, white panhandlers succeed in grabbing more attention than African American panhandlers do. Many individuals judge others on the basis of their religion, racial ethnicity, and culture. This is extremely intolerable, as very individuals has their own variable personality, and it might be that the manner in which they are stereotyped ends up being incorrect.