A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Classism: Why The Big Secret?

What began as a tweet on Twitter:

#random: I’m always amazed at people who want to discuss concerns for the lowest of us in society. Most of that comes as common sense to me

led to my subsequent imprisonment on the site (I had too many tweets in an hour it seems)…

Okay, I really jumped the gun on that one! It REALLY led to a series of questions (of which I still have no answers to) on my account. However, I stand by my statement because I am truly amazed at the questions asked about social “ills” in our society.

To be fair, I will acknowledge that many people grow up sheltered. This means that their parents go out of their way to keep them from experiencing any harm that peers of a lower social standing may experience. This is right. This is the aim of a parent – to protect.

But at which point does it cease to be “protection” and then move into the realm of foolishness?

It’s foolishness in the sense that every parent wishes to prepare their child for the “real world” (side note: these are my observations, I’m not a parent). So why is it that most children who make that step toward adulthood (through various transitions) aren’t prepared for what they encounter? Why is it that children who grow up in better economic conditions are more aware of suffering in other countries than in their own cities? Their own states? Their OWN country?

I’ve never understood that.

What comes as an even bigger surprise is that children who grow up relatively poor are always aware of the “Good Life.” Always. That’s what we aspire to (I could recount my experience growing up homeless, but that’s not the point of this post). We want the nice car, the nice house, the lawn, and the gated communities. We know about most expensive fashions. We can name designers. We can name the amount that a car retails at. Poor children can do all of those things and more. We know about the lives that “wealthy” and “well-to-do” people live.

But no one knows about us? I’m always surprised.

So imagine my excitement when I finally saw an invitation to a discussion on the very social ills of our society while an undergraduate student. I decided to go. I thought I would be inspired. I thought I would finally hear from people who understood what it was like to be a “have-not.” But as I listened, I quickly realized this discussion was tainted with stereotypes and questions as to why “poor people” just “couldn’t get it together.” I was disgusted.

In spite of that, I remained in the discussion and brought up questions that people rarely think about (I was also misquoted in the school newspaper). It was then that I knew I wanted to do something…but what? I majored in Psychology at my State university where many peers had similar backgrounds. I graduated. Then I went on to graduate school to work on a Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy at an Ivy League university.

On this morning, I was at once delighted to see a campus invitation to a discussion on “Classism and War.” These are the questions framing the discussion:

Does war have a
 disproportionate effect on certain socioeconomic groups? How does it
influence existing class disparities at home and abroad?

At once after reading that, I remembered the first discussion on classism that I sat through. I thought of questions that I’ve heard and the responses that I would like to give. I thought of questions that I haven’t heard and the responses that I’d like to give. I thought of quotes that I’ve read and the questions that they’ve personally brought up.

Q: Why are many communities of color in shambles? A: Is it any coincidence that our talented minds are attracted away by “other” companies?

Q: Why are so many people of color up in arms about health insurance reform? A: Have you ever had to sit in an emergency room b/c of asthma?

Q: What effects does militarism have on education? A: Did your schools lose funding b/c of an increase in the defense budget?

Q: Does the war disproportionately affect social classes? A: Did your neighbors sign up for the military b/c of no money for school?

To me (and to perhaps my readers), these questions fall into the “How can you ask that?” category. It all seems so straightforward to me and I again wonder, “Why was I expected to know about life from many standpoints, but my more affluent peers were not?” This may be the million-dollar question.

It has yet to be decided on whether or not I’ll go. While I’m apprehensive, I would love to sit in on the discussion just to hear what my academic peers have to share.

Who knows, I may finally learn something new myself?

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @MsCJayne.

© February 10, 2010 :: All thoughts expressed within this post belong to the author except where due credit is given.

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