Classism Exposed: Contradictions on the left

One of my pet peeves on The Left or other Progressive organizations is that when asking for donations, PLEASE tell me WHY it is okay to reward those that have more money by giving gifts according to how much is given? I understand totally that the money is needed, even deserved, but honestly it irks me to no end because I would like some of those gifts, I want some of those rewards too, but I can’t have them because I can’t contribute as much as I may want. It is then both frustrating, sets up feelings of humiliation for working and poor folks. I cannot see any justification for this. You know that saying, let it begin with us……and so it should.

How are we going to ever make any change when our own beloved organizations do the very behavior we oppose?  I see that Class Action isn’t  giving away a ton of stuff like other organizations but the contradiction speaks for itself. I literally have to turn a blind eye to this contradiction because I want this blog and organization to expand, to have enough, to have what it needs. But if people really LOVE the blog, I don’t think they need to receive gifts that others don’t because they can’t afford it. When I’ve brought this up before, I’ve been ignored and treated like less than human. I don’t expect the same behavior here and I know I won’t be treated that way here.

Here’s another analogy: I got a flyer last year for an “Earth Walk”  event. It’s about the supposed coming changes to consciousness and a new 5th dimension paradigm shift. So, everyone was invited to participate in this new paradigm. The first of many contradictions reared its head when they showed a map of the grounds and how it was to be set up. I had to laugh because one of the tents was called The VIP tent. When I questioned the main organizer about that concept he stared down at me and looked at me like I was crazy, irrelevant and stupid. It’s no small wonder these days that I often walk away talking to myself.

A worthwhile idea in dealing with classism in the women’s community came from the radical lesbian feminist community that came up with the idea of a sliding scale and “more if, less if.” The idea being that people that had more money could give more and take up the slack for the people that had less and that way the event or organization doing the work doesn’t suffer and everyone gets what they need.

I do understand that under our present system there will always be contradictions. But, it is worth struggling over, because without the struggle, without the consciousness raising from those most oppressed, we will not change anything and I’m here because I want to participate in that change. I want to be told when I’m not conscious of my privileges and I use them out of lack of awareness or for convenience sake. I’m in this or that movement because it is too painful to not be and to leave things as they are. I hope this essay is taken with the good will with which I intend it. I LOVE Class Action and the blog Classism Exposed. Thank you for providing a forum in which I get to speak and hopefully heard.

4 Responses

  1. Larry Dansinger

    I too have noticed Lena Rothman’s “Contradictions on the Left.” There are so many things that are ingrained in us, where we don’t even realize what we do to others or that we can change what we used to do. We’ve got to keep thinking “against the grain” constantly to see past the blinders our culture issues to us, around class and everything else.

    Larry Dansinger

  2. Andra

    Giving according to one’s means should never be a cause for shame, and I refuse to buy into the yardstick mentality. That said, I have never interpreted a matched donation as a “gift” to me. Maybe therein lies the problem. I think it would be interesting to explore alternative ways to structure matching programs to reduce the gap between wealthy and less wealthy donors, but only if this didn’t come at the expense of those on the receiving end. Donors need less of the “it’s all about me” mentality, not more. Meanwhile, income inequity looms…

  3. Lena Rothman
    Lena Rothman

    i Andra- I’m sorry but I don’t understand this “I have never interpreted a matched donation as a “gift” to me.” I thought a matched donation was if someone gave a thousand dollars that someone else would match that amount in donation. Is that not correct?

    While giving according to one’s means “should” not be a cause for shame, and I agree, however, we are indoctrinated into a belief system of classism and the ones at the bottom have feelings that are almost ingrained in us. So,while “should” not, sometimes we do.That’s why this blog site is so valuable and I encourage those that can, to give more. Let it hurt a little bit!

  4. Jane

    Hi Lena,

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

    I think that you’re responding to the fund-raising letter that Class Action just sent out offering discounts and free materials for donations?

    So, I read this slightly differently than you did.

    I saw that CA was asking people who could afford to do so to pay $100 for DVD or $250 for a book — exactly what you’re advocating of those with “more” giving more to subsidize things that people can’t otherwise afford like the sliding scale workshops all the free goodness on this website.

    And then they talked about how good it would be to donate those things to places like schools, who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

    But I see the point that people should just give without any incentives at all. I’d love to see more of that — and many people do give that way.

    And in the meantime, I’m thinking that with so many non-profits struggling right now (as I type this I got two more fundraising emails from non-profits doing extremely important work), I’m ok with this temporary appeal to get people who may not have donated before to get into the habit, or to nudge someone to get more into the ‘hurt a bit” range.

    I’d love to hear more on this — it’s great that you raise questions about ethical fund-raising.

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