The Working-Class Black Roots of Today’s Southern Coops

For many, the word “cooperative” might stir up a specific set of connotations: white professionals pouring over organic produce on their way home from six figure jobs; liberal arts college students sitting around discussing how to buy quinoa and tissue paper collectively; a cooperatively owned bookstore-coffee shop where you can read Marxist theory off the shelves as you eat a plate of cured tempeh. The real history of cooperatives, however, is much more complex. Many economic alternatives considered part of the “new” economy are decades old, and have typically been used to feed, clothe, house and empower working people. As... Read More

The Port Cafe: Dining Without Classism

Imagine opening the door to a high-end, exclusive restaurant. The whoosh of air-conditioned comfort draws you in as the well-trained hostess welcomes you to the bustling space, full of smiling, well-dressed, and well-fed people. The aromas of garlic and spices waft throughout the room, evidence of the much-loved chef supervising the kitchen. Now imagine the doorway to a soup kitchen in the local church basement. A line of sun-leathered faces stretches out the door as the crowd waits for bell to ring, signaling that they are allowed to enter and eat. They can stay as long as they behave themselves... Read More

Why democratic ownership matters if we care about class

I often open my lectures by explaining that the current distribution of wealth in the United States—with the richest 400 people owning more of the country than the poorest 180 million combined—is, essentially, a medieval arrangement, with a vast underclass and a tiny elite.  After one talk, a medieval historian approached me to offer a correction—today’s distribution of wealth is, in fact, far more unequal than anything seen in the Middle Ages.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that we are living in profoundly unequal times, and without addressing this fundamental imbalance in who owns our economy, we are going to be... Read More

Health doesn’t come cheap

Healthcare in this country is not meant for those who are sick. If you’re in good health, you are credited for that good health. The models in ads for health insurance and pharmaceuticals are smiling. All of them, pictured with good teeth, shiny and white, of course. You’re viewed as deserving, as lucky, as having done the right things in your life to have this good health. Ads show the models playing tennis, rock climbing or out enjoying a leisurely walk in a park. I look at those photos and realize I don’t do any of these things for a variety... Read More

White People with Money: Class, Free Markets & Race in Medicine

Medical ethics state that everyone be treated equally, but the pressures of the free market and individual prejudices often bend that ethic. Part of the problem is that medical facilities have to survive financially and not go bankrupt. This means even people who are well intentioned have to take financial reality into account. At the University of Chicago the newest hospital is called the Center for Care and Discovery or the CCD. Special rooms are set aside for people who make large charitable donations. The medical students and physicians in training quickly noted the majority of patients are white and... Read More

Health Inequities: Black Lives Matter!

Zip code is the best predictor of how healthy a person is and will be. Why is there a zip line to health? Your zip code is determined by income and wealth – and the racialized public policies and practices over generations that herded people of color into neighborhoods that were underserved by design, and that created white suburbs with publicly funded amenities. Whites in 1950 could expect to live to 69; it wasn’t until 40 years later that blacks could expect to live that long. Between 1968 and 1978 (what some are now calling the “Second Reconstruction”) income gaps... Read More

On Being an Other

“I don’t want to sound stupid or anything,” said my aunt as she made a remark about the weather being cold, but not as cold as in Massachusetts. I noticed how she quickly grazed her eyes in my direction before letting them drop when our eyes met. Lately, I felt as though many of my close friends and family members were making statements such as these quite frequently. Level of intelligence had never been something that created a barrier between us before my first semester at college. I had just returned home, and after being away for a short 4... Read More

Removing Barriers to Access

It wasn’t until I was in my second semester of college at UMass Amherst that I discovered being a first generation college student was an identity. Now, I was very proud to be the first in my family to attend college and knew it was an important accomplishment. But I wasn’t aware of the wealth of resources available for “first gen” students, or that I could find a community that understood my struggles navigating the structures of higher education. Instead, my family and I waded through the college application and financial aid process, and ultimately had major issues filling out... Read More
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