Class Matters Workshops

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Class Matters book cover

Order Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists by Betsy Leondar-Wright (New Society Publishers, 2005).

Press Coverage of CM

Classist Comments

What's the most classist thing you ever heard someone say?

(I'm not talking about someone like Bill O'Reilly or your right-wing uncle. More specifically, what's the most classist thing you ever heard a liberal or progressive person say?)

Read five interviewees' answers — and my own.

Class and Other Identities

How do you experience class differently because of your race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, or other identity? What class dynamics do you notice within your identity groups?

Here's how a few ClassMatters.org visitors answered those questions:

And answers from the Class Matters book:

(More) Classist Comments

New Responses to the Survey on Classism

I work in a textile mill as a line operator. The company was switching from a pension plan to a 401k. The head engineer told me that 'he did not think the guys working on the floor were smart enough to pick out investment choices'. I think, with a little education, any one can pick out a savings plan. This factory managment seems to feel providing a little education to their employees is a waste. I am leaving there and I am going to go to school to be a nurse. I can tell you that I am scared to death about how I am going to pay the bills. I hope that I never have the attitude towards hard working laborers that that engineer has.

—Christine Drew

Repeatedly, particularly after the last election: "People are so stupid."

—Joanne Forman

Years ago when I was living in Westport, CT, a very affluent community, there was a controversial proposal to help the poor people of the region by opening a soup kitchen. A local newspaper sent a reporter around town asking people what they thought of the proposal. As expected most people were against the idea but one well-too-do woman answered: "I think that's a great idea! I love soup!"

—Dan Bucknam

I used to work for a women's domestic violence shelter and I was trading stories with a friend who worked in another shelter. She said the comment that pissed her off the most came from middle class white women who would come in, see the diverse clientel in the shelter, and ask "Where's our program?" I guess the thought of hiding with someone who could be your maid was worse than getting away from your violent husband.

—Salud Garcia

Said to me, "If you grew up like that why aren't you in prison?"

—Herb Ruhs

I'm a freelance writer and editor, happy with my creative work, but, like so many others in my field, earning just what it takes to get along.

Some years ago I spent an afternoon with my nephew from a very middle-class town on Long Island(NY) who was attending law school at the time. We were having a conversation where the topic of his extreme competitiveness came up.

As his uncle, I asked him if I could offer some advice about controlling his impulses to be better, smarter, faster, than anyone else. His behavior spanned an alarmingly wide range of subjects — from sports and games to opinions about government, religion, society, et al. I gently informed him that his competitive attitude would in the end work against him — be counterproductive — because it consistently alienated the people surrounding him — both family and friends. He was most often described as obnoxious.

His response pains me to this very day. He said, without missing a beat,

"Why should I listen to anything you say — what have you got to show for yourself?"

Of course, I could dismiss that comment as simply more obnoxious behavior. But I have been sensitive ever since to people who are dismissive of the opinions and values of those who don't have much "to show for themselves" in the material sense.

—Mark

While I was working toward a college degree taking night courses at the University of Minnesota, I worked during the day in the Admissions Office at Macalester College, a small, private, intensely selective, and terribly expensive institution. However, people would toss at me, "Why don't you just attend college at Macalester?"

—Kristine Harley

"I remember when that outfit used to be in style. I loved it. I gave mine to my cleaning woman."

—Nancy Mack

I was wearing an old pair of shorts and T-shirt while shopping at the local hardware store. A clerk asked me what I needed for my trailer. My custom built home on a half acre with views currently has a market value of 240K. The clerk assumed I was poor by my clothing.

—Gary Cooper

P.S. After posting my experience I became aware that my statement has a classist element. I mentioned the fact that I'm a property owner to distinguish myself from a person who owns a trailer, as if there is a type of person who owns a trailer. The stereotypes of "trailer trash" in our society are widespread. I think I made a fool of myself when I mentioned my home ownership. I've looked in the mirror and don't like what I see. Thank you for starting a dialogue on class consciousness. I am now painfully aware of my own bigotry.

"You better simplify these statements if you want them to understand" — spoken about the poor in need.

I responded, "Just because they are poor doesn't mean they are stupid. Intelligence is much more than about their ability to earn a paycheck."

—Deborah May

I've heard, and said, a lot of classist stuff, but, one of the first times I really felt it was whne I was in (an elite) college. An activist said "we" were middle class women and had to find alliance with immigrant workers through the group (or something like that). I felt excluded, because I was male, but, also because I wanted to help the group out because my mother was an immigrant worker. I also kind of thought they'd be able to teach me stuff that would be relevant to my life. Lacking any self confidence, I never joined up or volunteered. I attended a few rallies for them, though.

—John

"You went to community college and state school and can't expect to be able to speak effectively to people who attended private and graduate schools."

—Joseph Santos-Lyons