How do we address the deep class and culture divide that has opened up between workers and environmental activists?
How do we address the deep class and culture divide that has opened up between workers and environmental activists?
Nicole Brown’s blog post, “Broke vs. ‘Broke’,” explains one of the many ways class identity affects the college experience, especially in graduate school. Everyone I have ever known in graduate school has made significant sacrifices of time and treasure to complete their degrees.
This summer, I had a “stay-cation,” meaning I stayed put in DC where I moved last year to attend grad school. My “stay-cation” was awful, imposed on me because of my lack of funds; I was completely broke. I take issue when people flippantly use the term “broke” to describe their financial situation (e.g. the recent Hillary Clinton controversy).
I just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia, and it irritated me in the same way that many books and movies have irritated me lately: they purport to be the story of extremely humble origins turned into ravishing success through pluck and persistence. But they aren’t.
I grew up thinking that even if some people were born to great privilege and others were born into much more challenging circumstances, there was one place where the contests were fair: sports. After all, everyone plays by the same rules, right?
In many classrooms across the country this fall, students will be asked to respond to the age-old prompt, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” Though often used as a well-meaning way for teachers to build community and to better get to know their students, such a question can surface deep classist assumptions that can easily make kids uncomfortable or embarrassed.
With every passing year, Labor Days becomes increasingly surreal. Labor, as a movement, receives decreasing attention and, to the extent to which Labor Day is acknowledged, it tends to be in the context of work alone.
For many years, American unions have been trying to “organize of the unorganized” to offset and, where possible, reverse their steady loss of dues-paying membership. In union circles, a distinction was often made between that “external organizing” — to recruit workers who currently lack collective bargaining rights — and “internal organizing,” which involves engaging more members in contract fights and other forms of collective activity aimed at strengthening existing bargaining units.
Recently I read an essay on the Huffington Post written by Baptist theologian and activist, Jeff Hood, about developments in Ferguson, Missouri. Hood took issue with clergy on the scene who asserted to African-American protesters, “If we remain peaceful then we will get what we want!” On the contrary, Hood argued, suppressing anger in the face of injustice was its own kind of violence. “If peaceful protest is about controlling people’s emotions, then I believe it to be violently taking away the agency of people who have every right to be angry and engaged in resistance,” he said.
For the past two years I’ve traveled across the country to film festivals, labor events and public forums to show my documentary, “Farewell to Factory Towns?” With Labor Day on the horizon, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the reactions of audiences to the film.
“Ladies, keep your legs crossed and your minds opened,” wrote a 58 year old undergraduate student who works in college admissions and recruitment in an online post in my sociology class. She said the economy was being destroyed by welfare mothers who have more babies for more welfare with many different men and that society would be “much better if ladies kept their legs crossed.”
I remember my first demolition derby, years ago as a young parent. It was the thrill of illicit activity that drew me there. My parents—middle class academic types with progressive values—would never have dreamed of lending their support to such an uncouth spectacle; their disapproval would have been unconditional.
Transgender issues have received more sympathetic media attention in the past few months than ever before. While so many people are paying attention to trans issues for the first time, this seems like an important moment to draw attention to an issue that’s at the heart of many of the challenges trans* people face in the world: most trans people are poor.
I attended the University of Chicago, one of the most elite universities in the country and world. Privileged places like the U of C are making strides in opening their doors to low-income students like myself, but this didn’t automatically eliminate the classism that existed and still exists today. In reflecting on my experience, here are just some of the classist things I experienced as a student there.
If you are like me you may have had trouble keeping up with all the bad news U.S. Supreme Court opinions issued in recent months. I would like to discuss one of those opinions, Noel Canning, because I think it had some real social class dimensions that may not be immediately noticeable.
In recent news, New York City council members revealed that a new Manhattan high-rise, in which 20% of the units will be reserved for subsidized housing, will have a separate entrance for those units. In the basest terms, low-income residents will be entering through the “back door,” reminiscent of that reserved for servants in earlier centuries.
I’ve been compelled, and I feel kind of sick about it, to read about the Google executive who died when a $1,000-a-time call girl—who found serial killers exciting and sexy— shot him up with too much heroin, on his yacht. The picture of decadence. Nine months earlier, his obit had pictured him as a father of five, married seventeen years whose greatest pleasure was spending time with his family. Of course, people being the complex creatures they are, that might also be true.
Harris v. Quinn is a recent Supreme Court opinion, featured often on the news, holding that “partial” public employees – home health care providers – should not be “compelled” to join a union or, put in less charged language, to contribute to union representation in their workplace even when a majority of employees has voted for representation.
Undercover Boss is a prime time reality show on CBS. The concept is that the CEO of a company is disguised and then goes “undercover” for a week in his/her company doing the low wage work on the front lines to see how things really are. Typically, bosses are white men, although there have been some women and some people of color. Most often it’s a CEO, although on occasion it will be somebody else from the executive suite.
For the past year, I have been having conversations in the predominantly White, middle class, progressive faith community where I worship, about making choices so that our actions would match up with our “all for equality” attitudes.
My best friend texted me the other night. He was letting me know that he’d been asked to submit a micro-aggression that happened to him while at Bates College, and was picking between two things I said to him freshman year. The first was, “Wow! You just got so Black!” after watching him debate.
“But why?” some ask.
“Are the mules okay?” Not to diminish hard-working mules, but the mine boss’s urgent question after an accident captures the cruel reality thrust upon generations of underground coal miners, whose toil fueled America.
Frantz Fanon, in his classic account of colonialism and violence, The Wretched of the Earth, went to great length and detail explaining the elements needed to overthrow a colonial oppressor.
Why would someone not identify as middle class? Many high-income African American professional homeowners respond to pollsters who ask for class self-identification by not choosing “middle class” or “upper class,” the identities usually chosen by their white counterparts. Why?
On December 1, 2011, I was notified that I had been matched to Princeton University through the QuestBridge program; this meant a full-ride! I was surprised and in a state of euphoria. My teachers were proud; some broke down in tears.
Ah, Downton Abbey. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Crises arise, but they are almost always resolved with human kindness. It’s a comforting world; maybe that’s why, despite its blithe ignorance or studied denial of most facts about working-class life, I still watch it. We all need some wish fulfillment, and the wish fulfilled by Downton Abbey is the wish for class harmony.
Each year, popular television appears to break new cultural barriers. Perhaps its most vital engine is the critically acclaimed, Modern Family, celebrated for its sophisticated portrayal of non-traditional households. But what if I told you Modern Family is no different from most shows in that it fails to address the poor and working class?
In a tour de force of economic analysis that has swept Washington, a 42-year-old French economist has upended conventional wisdom about the causes and consequences of inequality. Tom Piketty’s new book, “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” quickly hit the New York Times best seller list and earned its author a seat at the table with President Obama’s top economic advisors.
Imagine an event where the people in control were the house cleaners, the nannies, the family farmers and the unemployed!
What happens to a poor, working class rural community when its hospital closes — with three days notice? That’s what residents of North Adams, Massachusetts and surrounding towns have been trying to figure out since the North Adams Regional Hospital closed its doors on March 28th. While local and state politicians scurried to at least keep the emergency room open, members of the two hospital unions, a local labor coalition and other residents temporarily occupied the hospital.
There are plenty of industries out there that we wish would do better by their workers, but the restaurant industry poses a very specific problem. Here’s the largest and fastest growing economic sector in the US producing 6 of 10 lowest paying jobs in the country. Why? The majority of their workforce don’t get paychecks. The federal tipped minimum wage has been $2.13 since 1991. That wage is quickly devoured by taxes; many servers don’t even bother with picking up their check. Instead, they’re living entirely off tips. Most of us are familiar with living check-to-check, but imagine living quite literally shift-to-shift.
I recently started waitressing at a neighborhood sports bar, where I quickly found that my idealistic image of leaving work at the end of a shift with hundreds of dollars in hand was far from the truth. A great night for me leads to about $100 in tips, an average night is much closer to the $40-60 range.
There seems to be an elephant in the room when we are discussing the issue of classism. This elephant is so large, and so huge, that the overwhelming majority of us believe that it is actually partaking in the discussion. That it is a member of the debate, and so we pay little attention to it. I feel it is about time that this elephant was confronted.
When I was studying 25 social justice groups for Missing Class, one of my biggest surprises was a class category I hadn’t even thought to look for: lower professionals. Activists of that class had such unique ways of speaking, participating, and especially dealing with conflict that they had a notable impact on their groups.
I’d like to open a discussion about class and invisible disabilities. I am a lower-class womyn with a disability called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I come from a poverty background in Brooklyn.I incurred this disability because of the work I did to get out of poverty in my 20’s.
Black History Month got me thinking about some of the African-American thinkers who have taught me the most about class/race intersections:
The schoolhouse version of Black History Month has rightfully focused on elevating African-Americans who have made great achievements in American history: writers, inventors, and public officials. Giving kids a sense of the possible is an important part of inspiring young people to strive to be the best they can be.
Dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite last month. Salt Lake City School District officials say the trays were taken away at Uintah Elementary School because some students had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches, according to CNN.
I have to pinch myself lately because it seems the U.S. has been infiltrated by post-Soviet Russian gangsters bent on turning every public good into a private jackpot.
Half of Americans are working-class or poor, yet all I heard about in the State of the Union address was the middle class, and now I’m annoyed. I wrote down all of President Obama’s references to class issues. Here are my quick (possibly overly sarcastic) responses to those references.
A full collegiate scholarship is a dream for some high school students, especially those that come from a low socio-economic status or those that are first-generation college students. While that dream is not a bad dream, it was not my dream.
I’ve long been interested in the complicated processes of crossing class barriers, especially when that crossing is navigated through success in school. With British sociologist Diane Reay, I believe that we learn a great deal about class when we learn more about the experiences of “the ones who got away”.
Why was I feeling inadequate, angry, and torn between family and academia, just like first-generation college students feel? I was a graduate student with a college degree, damn it! Shouldn’t these feelings be gone by now?
Did your schoolteachers say, “Don’t bring [candy, toys, coveted items] to school unless you bring enough for everyone”? Mine did. Maybe they recognized how incapable children are of understanding the fundamental injustice of wealth inequality, of some people having immensely desirable things that for some reason cannot be attained by others.
The racial wealth divide has reached new heights. The billionaires that make up the “Forbes 400” list have as much wealth as the entire African-American population of the U.S., over 41 million people, according to a new analysis by Bob Lord of the Institute for Policy Studies. Lord calls it “Dr. King’s Nightmare.”
Is there any point to engaging with someone who’s rigidly dug in to their classism, or other oppressive attitudes?
During my second week living in Boston, I faced one of those frightening moments of choosing whether or not to come out in front of a group that could go against me. I’d been faced with coming out before, but this time it wasn’t coming out as a lesbian, but coming out as poor.
This world is divided into unrepresentative and irrelevant categories. Rather than looking at what we have in common with others, we are told to focus on the differences. It was in Austria, whilst staying with friends of mine in Vienna, that this became apparent.
We should be as wary now of the mainstream media as Marx was in 1871 when he wrote the following: “The daily press and the telegraph, which in a moment spreads its inventions over the whole earth, fabricate more myths in one day…than could have previously been produced in a century.”