Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is Classism?

  • Cities enforcing camping laws on people who do not have homes.
  • A person refusing to hire someone because, although qualified, they don’t have an address.
  • Services not being available to people because they don’t have ID or the means to obtain ID.
  • Looking down at obese poor people who became obese because they bought what food they could afford
  • Seeing wealth as a matter of wisdom rather than a combination of luck and hording resources
  • Telling a beggar to “get a job”
  • A doctor telling a person that to be healthy they need a prescription they cannot afford.
  • Church members looking askance at a visitor who is not dressed well or who smells.
  • Laws reducing welfare because the poor "abuse" the system

Classism, like racism or sexism, has three different levels:
1.       1. The distrust, anger against or hatred of another person simply because they belong to a different class than one’s own.
2.     2.   Making assumptions about another person based on a stereotype of their class.
3.     3.   Societal structures which make it difficult for a person of lower classes to obtain the status of “normalcy” in society.

Because of the three different levels of classism, it is difficult for people to communicate to one another when they are speaking of different kinds of classism.  There is a kind of classism that speaks evil of all wealthy people (definition 1 or 2), but wealthy people are not affected by the societal structures, because they have enough power to overcome them.  Some wealthy, like Donald Trump, suffer under societal infamy (whether deserved or not), but Mr. Trump is not struggling to obtain the everyday benefits of American society.
Classism is still at the starting gate to be battled against.  The poor and homeless are still represented in the mass media as pathetic, not real people.  Politicians and pundits are allowed to call the poor “lazy” without mass outrage.  The assumption that it is easy to get a job or assistance is rampant among the population.  There are many more blocks to raising one’s class than ladders to overcoming blocks.  And classism is often ignored in discussions that speak about racism and sexism.

The first steps to overcoming classism are simple and can be done by most people with access to cyber social media:

1. Don’t let anyone make stereotyped statements about the poor without being corrected, whether personally or publicly.

2. We need to battle our own prejudices against the poor by finding out more about them.  Two good places to begin is with Barbara Ehrenreich’s journalistic expose’, Nickel and Dimed,
or Anawim’s site about homelessness:

3. We need to pursue relationship with the poor.  We can meet with and ask questions about the life of people we know who are struggling.  Or we can go to a local shelter and ask the homeless how they became homeless and what they do.  Only if the poorer classes and the middle classes communicate can prejudice be overcome.

4. We need to actively oppose any legislation that openly harms the poor, or that makes assumptions about the poor that are untrue.  It is not enough to shake our heads in shame, we can email our Congress Persons, Senators and President and speak to them about the classism in legislation. 

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