Posts tagged class.

Class, Race Anxiety, and Race Men (from Readin & Fightin #3)

“Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget?”
―Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

A lot of the books on my reading list deal with anxiety, and how women of color deal with anxiety and alienation because of things outside themselves—experiences as the only kid of color bussed in to their school or accepted on scholarship, being mixed-race, coming out as queer or trans, disabilities, immigration, language barriers, sexual violence and trauma, body shame, etc. Many of these books have characters who are so deeply anxious about who they are and where that places them in the world that they withdraw themselves from other people or become silent altogether (Maya Angelou and Maxine Hong Kingston, as well as Arundhati Roy’s character Estha, each spent periods of their youth silent because of traumas they couldn’t otherwise deal with). Anxiety is often the running theme through collections of short stories on my reading list: Many of Asali Solomon’s characters, all black teenagers and young adults, are the only black student at their school or newly-integrated suburb. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s characters are often navigating the tension between African-americans in the literal sense (by being immigrants from Africa) and African-americans in the ancestral sense (by being descendants of Africans in the americas), the disconnect between Africa’s diverse views of itself and whites’ views of it as a monolith, and the meaning and usefulness of pan-African identity to begin with. Jhumpa Lahiri focuses on the awkwardness of South Asian immigrants “making it” in white american suburbs.

And yet, very few of these books are about characters who are capable of dealing with these tensions and anxieties directly, or who have the resources and support to do so. Instead, they keep their anxieties inside, bottled up and unspoken. In some cases, they are left with no other recourse than to lash out at others, or respond to violence with much greater force after years of abuse (the title character of Sula, thought to have no empathy; the main character of Woman at Point Zero who responds to sexism with violence; many of Alice Walker’s short story characters lash out with pent-up rage in ways no one understands). In some cases they don’t know of any alternatives, so they repeat the same traumas done to them; a brilliant study of this is in Breath, Eyes, Memory.

A lot of these stories develop their characters through navigating the anxiety that seems inevitable in being a racialized in a white-centered world, even more complicatedly so when these characters are women. It is an important distinction that this anxiety doesn’t come from being a woman of color, but from the ways white supremacy treats women of color.

In some ways, I also think there is an anxiety caused by integration. Some of these characters, specifically those in Solomon’s stories and Dee in Walker’s story “Everyday Use,” are the first generation of their family to be brought up in a (supposedly) integrated society. Their coming-of-age experiences unfold almost like those of immigrants, yet their foreignness comes from being othered and made into outsiders in their own homes. In a conversation I had recently about race and gentrification, my explanation of what racism means to individuals is that there is often no happy, comfortable, and welcoming place for people of color to be. Instead, we end up forging happy-enough communities to shield us from the outside; I gave the example of older people fondly remembering their childhoods in the projects, knowing first-hand how racism and classism functioned in their lives to put them there, but also knowing that in the midst of it they build close communities with the resources they had. Integration, like immigrations, forces them out of this forged safe space and into a world that they’re not supposed to belong to.

Shange’s Lady in Brown channels Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Overture to help her deal with the pressure and alienation of her “integrated home/integrated street/integrated school,” concluding that, because of these pressures, “1955 waz not a good year for lil blk girls.” This is, in her life, reason enough to need revolt. In fact, one of the major integration battlegrounds of that period (and still) was the school system. In order to integrate a school system, students, some of them very young, were the frontline, being sent into incredibly hostile, violence, and degrading environments where they were expected to stay intact and eventually get an education. How could we not expect that school year in a racial warzone to take a toll on their psyches?

Class tension within p.o.c. groups seems to be something that, even within candid discussions of racism, remains untouched. It also seems that, as families of color rise through class-based power, their interactions with not just white individuals but white society as a whole increase. By class-based power I mean not just the actual wealth a family has,but the social capital as well, that may not even be backed up by money. The example I often use i my own family, where everyone has always been encouraged to pursue creative arts that are often upper-class arenas, or my own attendance of an Ivy League college but on heavy financial aid.

There is a tendency to allow this unspoken class tension to become all-out alienation once people of color have “made it.” Capitalism thrives on this alienation. Within my extended family, there are deep division and estrangements that come out of the mentality of, “We’re living like the Huxtables, so forget where we came from and forget all of y’all.”

I grew up middle-class and in a middle-class black neighborhood surrounded by an upper-middle-class white neighborhood which literally put up barriers to keep us separated. I always had messages running through my head that come straight from W.E.B. DuBois’s less-than-class-conscious ideas of racial uplift—that black people’s collective life improvement can come from the efforts of the “Talented Tenth,” the upper echelon of black intellectuals and culture creators into whom we can pool our resources now to feed off of later. Certain “Race Men,” members of the Talented Tenth, can show white people, through ceaseless effort and mastery of all realms of (white) culture, that all black people cannot be inferior if a select few have mastered whites’ own game.

(ETA:Rereading this months later I just want to be clear that I’m not into the idea of the Talented Tenth. I’m not sure if that came through clearly. Being pushed toward that position from an early age is the source of a ton of my anxiety. I’ve also read more since I wrote this piece about how DuBois himself changed his mind on this idea, but the idea of racial uplift in this manner is still around.)

Recommended reading on race anxiety:

  • The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  • White Rat, Gayl Jones

  • A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaide

  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

  • Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

  • Sula, Toni Morrison

  • Mixed: An anthology of short fiction on the multiracial experience, ed. Chandra Prasad

  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

  • Caucasia, Danzy Senna

  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith

  • Get Down, Asali Solomon

It’s funny when I walk in a place and everyone around but me is white, and waaay too many white people turn right away to look at me, giving me that look that says, “What are you doing here?”

And I’m like, “This is a restaurant, what the fuck do you thinkI’m doing here? I want a goddamn fish sandwich, and you’ll be surprised to know I’m an excellent tipper.”

Like, damn, white people, I know I came in here off my bike and in ratty clothes, and now I’m parking my black ass at the next booth from you and disgusting you with my piercings and armpit hair showing while you’re telling stories about picking on little kids for not adhering closely enough to gender roles and about how ridiculous women with tattoos are and they should cover them up, sure, my existence right here & right now must surely be a problem——but take note of how super sweet I’m bout to be to this waitress right now.

Your unemployment crisis is breaking news when it hits 8.2%? Tell me what that level of economic security is like.

The chart to the right is one that I made a while back about the whitewashing of the “wage gap” as it is commonly talked about in the u.s. The stats used are:

1980:

  • White women 6.5%
  • Black women 14.0%
  • Latina women 10.7%
  • White men 6.1%
  • Black men 14.5%
  • Latino men 9.7%
  • Overall 7.1%

1990:

  • White women 4.7%
  • Black women 10.9%
  • Latina women 8.4%
  • White men 4.9%
  • Black men 11.9%
  • Latino men 8.0%
  • Overall 5.6%

2000:

  • White women 3.6%
  • Black women 7.1%
  • Latina women 6.8%
  • White men 3.4%
  • Black men 8.0%
  • Latino men 5.0%
  • Overall 4.0%

2010:

  • White women 7.7%
  • Black women 13.8%
  • Latina women 12.3%
  • White men 9.6%
  • Black men 18.4%
  • Latino men 12.7%
  • Overall 9.6%

Note that these are conservative counts by the u.s. Dept. of Labor.

So this is breaking news to whom?

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

James A. Baldwin  (via gorgeousmuslimah)

Just got back from visiting Chicago, gas was jacked up to $4.50 in the hood.

(via kiriamaya)

#class  #poverty  

image

(Fixed the formatting so this posts legibly.)

Complicating the Wage Gap in the US—looking at sex and race

I’m trying to study up on ways to visualize important information like this, and to bust myths with facts instead of just griping about them (although griping is important too).

All statistics come from US Dept. of Labor. I made all charts in LibreOffice.

The purpose of looking at these statistics is to know more about what is meant when we talk about wage gaps between men and women, or when we talk about unemployment rates. Some questions to think about:

  •     What is considered an unemployment crisis? Who needs to be experiencing this level of unemployment before a crisis/recession/depression is declared?
  •     Likewise, whose categorization of “working poor” is considered normal, and whose indicates an economic crisis?
  •     Does economic crisis come from a sudden loss of economic security rather than an ongoing lack of that security? How could this be reassessed to support communities that have historically been in poverty?
  •     Whose income is used in measuring wage gaps? What gaps exist within those categories?
  •     What is done in the name of feminism to close the wage gap between white women and women of color? Why has this gap been allowed to increase over time?
  •     Why is there a resistance to specify race when talking about wage gaps, if white women earn around the same as black and latino men at different education levels, whereas white men far out-earn all groups at education levels beyond high school graduation?


Putting this information together is what I wanted to do instead of just complaining about women of color being often ignored by white-centered feminism and rhetoric of wage gaps, and likewise people of color being often ignored by white liberals and progressives in discussing economic inequality. I’m all about putting resources together and complicating seemingly static categories, so here we go.

Complicating the Wage Gap in the US—looking at sex and race

All statistics come from US Dept. of Labor. I made all charts in LibreOffice.

The purpose of looking at these statistics is to know more about what is meant when we talk about wage gaps between men and women, or when we talk about unemployment rates. Some questions to think about:

  • What is considered an unemployment crisis? Who needs to be experiencing this level of unemployment before a crisis/recession/depression is declared?
  • Likewise, whose categorization of “working poor” is considered normal, and whose indicates an economic crisis?
  • Does economic crisis come from a sudden loss of economic security rather than an ongoing lack of that security? How could this be reassessed to support communities that have historically been in poverty?
  • Whose income is used in measuring wage gaps? What gaps exist within those categories?
  • What is done in the name of feminism to close the wage gap between white women and women of color? Why has this gap been allowed to increase over time?
  • Why is there a resistance to specify race when talking about wage gaps, if white women earn around the same as black and latino men at different education levels, whereas white men far out-earn all groups at education levels beyond high school graduation?

Putting this information together is what I wanted to do instead of just complaining about women of color being often ignored by white-centered feminism and rhetoric of wage gaps, and likewise people of color being often ignored by white liberals and progressives in discussing economic inequality. I’m all about putting resources together and complicating seemingly static categories, so here we go.

(This is what I’ve done with my last day of spring break.)

Yet another awesome thing my students have shown me:

The Rich Person Face. That’s the face you make when you’re around snobby white people and you want to be overly polite to them as a joke, and then smile back at them with the same crinkly snobby phony smile that they’re giving you. That’s the best I can describe it. There’s a chuckle that goes along with it.

When we consider the myriad school shootings that have occurred between 1992 and 2002 (there have been twenty-eight cases), several constants stand out. All twenty-eight cases were committed by boys. All but one was committed by a white boy in a suburban or rural school. We speak of teen violence, youth violence, violence in the schools. but no one in the media ever seems to call it suburban white boy violence, although that is exactly what it is. Try a little thought experiment: Imagine that all the killers in the more famous shootings in the 1990s - Littleton, Colorado; Pearl, Mississippi; Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Oregon; and Jonesboro, Arkansas, were black girls from poor families who lived instead in New Haven, Boston, Chicago, Newark. Wouldn’t we now be having a national debate about inner-city black girls? Would not the media focus entirely on race, class, and gender?



Of course it would: We’d hear about the culture of poverty; about how life in the city breeds crime and violence; about some putative natural tendency among blacks towards violence. Someone would probably even blame feminism for causing girls to become violent in vain imitation of boys. Yet the obvious fact that these school killers were all middle-class white boys seems to have escaped the media’s notice, in part because race, class, and gender are only visible when speaking of those who are not privileged by race, class and gender but invisible when speaking of those who are privileged by them.

Michael Kimmel: Men, Masculinity, and the Rape Culture (via simeral)

Things like whiteness and class-privilege are normalized to the point that they’re assumed they couldn’t have a relationship to a person’s actions.

(via desliz)

#class  #race  #gender  #suburbia  

Dear well-off white people who complain about financial aid/scholarships for the needy:

strugglingtobeheard:

dreamweaverdeceiver:

socialistexan:

notforyoutobreak:

dumbthingswhitepplsay:

You realize that while working for your college might be annoying, you’d still be able to go to college, right? You also realize that the people who get this aid would likely be completely unable to go to college without it?

And you DO realize that even with a college degree, the PoC in particular will not be able to make as much money as FELONS in your group and people with high school diplomas or less, right?

K.

Thx.

This so much. 

^ This.

But it’s also not right to award students aid solely based off their EFC. My grades/resume are just as good as the lower income student. Colleges and the federal government should look more at the work students have done, rather than just awarding aid to any kid who has a total income of ~$40,000 or less. Don’t punish me and my siblings with student loan debt because my parents (who neither of them have a college level education) work hard for the amount of money they make. 

Middle-class representin’. ~~ 

You need to know what you are talking about before you talk. Financial aid is based off EFC. Scholarships are not, unless they are specifically for low-income students with high grades. EFC is financial need and if you don’t have a low EFC, then you don’t need financial assistance. Which means even if it will be a pinch, you and your family can still find a way to pay for your entire education. Everyone has to go into debt damn near. I get full financial aid and still have debt. You really don’t even know what you are talking about.

Also, if your grades are so good, you can find scholarships. It’s not the governments responsibility to award every single student financial help for good grades when grades are also often affected by income and other factors.

First off—and I’m saying this typing on a nice laptop while sitting cozy on the radiator at my middle-class parents’ house in a middle-class neighborhood that I took an airplane to visit—

FUCK THE MIDDLE CLASS.

I am saying that about myself and my family and ostensibly against my own self-interests and I mean it so much.

Any discussion of systemic classism (like we are here talking about quality of education and access to jobs based on economic opportunity) that centers itself around the middle class needs to stop. Immediately. If a conversation is happening about poverty and education, then at that moment no one cares about your sweatshop-made bootstraps.

Secondly, isn’t it a well-known fact by now that income level often correlates to quality of education and access to educational resources? So if you’re even talking about how hard middle-class kids work to get good grades, think how much more is stacked against poor kids to get those same grades. I am saying this as someone who works with high school students, mostly poor, in an underfunded charter school in an underfunded district. My job is to help fill in gaps that have been left in their education through race- and class-influenced negligence. I am not about to come at them telling them how hard it was to get A’s and B’s with plenty of help from my college-educated two-parent family. I shut the hell up and try to learn from them about what class and education mean. If they ask me about my time in high school, I am honest, but I don’t come at them assuming that opportunities I had are opportunities they also have.

Thirdly, I worked on financial aid activism in college. It is absolutely NOT the case that low income kids, should they even make it that far, just waltz into college and are handed a check for all their financial needs and then some. There are so many ways colleges keep from having to give much of any money. The FAFSA calculates how much your family can reasonably afford to pay, usually an amount that they still can’t afford, but colleges are not obligated to give you the remainder in aid. It is a suggestion. If you can’t afford college, you don’t even bother applying to places that are going to be stingy with aid.

If you wanna talk colleges looking at the work students have done to get to a certain point (which, btw, is called merit scholarship and not financial aid), then let’s be honest that a low-income student probably had to work a fuckton harder to get to that point than a middle-class one. People aren’t poor because they don’t work hard enough.

Debt is fucked up for anyone, and no one deserves it, but a college education is a privilege many people do not have access to. So, no, student loans are not a punishment—they are a signifier that you were able to go to college, under a capitalist system that links education access to wealth in really oppressive ways.

and im gonna write more about this later

so-treu:

but at this point i am convinced: Occupy Wall Street is not a revolutionary movement. SlutWalk is not a revolutionary movement. There might be revolutionary elements, but fundamentally, these movements are about retaining and returning to unchallenged white supremacy. In as much as the current power structure makes them uncomfortable, they want to change it so they can get back comfortable. but that’s about it.

I haven’t had any experience with SlutWalk (so far seems like that’s a blessing), but this is exactly my experience with Occupy New Haven. Many many people’s reasoning for wanting to do work now, rather than at any point ever before, is because of the white middle class losing its comfort. That’s a lot of what people are talking about, being specific to the middle class.

Which makes me wonder, how accurate is people’s conception of what the middle class even is? It’s obvious that it’s assumed to be white and college educated, and plenty of surveys are around showing that the upper-middle and upper classes think of themselves as middle class. I know that supposedly undermines the unity of the 99% (w/e), but if an agenda is being put forth that is about one class as it is perceived and not other classes, then there’s already plenty of class disunity going on. I’m no more divisive by acknowledging it.

Okay, and that’s just the tip of its class issues. That isn’t even the ridiculousness of wanting to show up in a space already occupied by homeless people, oblivious to the well-known fact that homeless folks are there, or of wanting to go to a soup kitchen to lecture people about the economy while they’re eating dinner. That isn’t even its race issues.

At least in New Haven, it is making absolutely no claims about being revolutionary. I had to point out that it is possible to be confrontational without being violent (let alone the fact that we are not all pacifists, that we have not all had the privilege of leading lives where pacifism is possible), because people were assuming that if we were nonviolent we also shouldn’t be confrontational. It pretty much challenges nothing. At least it doesn’t pretend to. It doesn’t challenge why things are the way they are, the fact that capitalism is working. It doesn’t challenge people’s sense of being entitled to comfort when others are uncomfortable.

Alongside this are the race issues, overt whitewashing that I and a couple others in NH have gone into. I feel like people are finally listening to us fight with them about how glaringly arrogant and white-centered this whole project has been, but not without completely alienating people. For example, within the first ten minutes of the first meeting, they lost a key immigrant rights organizer who’s a friend of mine, and with him a good shot at building a foundation in New Haven’s immigrant communities.

I’m out of town for the launch of ONH, so hopefully I’ll be back to see that everyone’s been reading Audre Lorde and Betita Martinez over the past week and taking it seriously, and everyone’s made bff’s with folks living on the Green and passing their REI sleeping bags off to folks who live there not by choice. Hopefully.

microaggressions:

Seeing many maps of Manhattan that magically cut off right above 125th St (or 110th St), where the majority of the population is Black and Hispanic. Makes me feel erased. Like my neighborhood isn’t really  part of Manhattan.

I once flipped through a travel guide to Chicago, don’t remember the publisher but a major one, and there were tons of specific things listed to do on the Northside and downtown and neighborhoods to visit, and a few things in the gentrified parts of the Westside. Then the section on the Southside, where I grew up, had a disclaimer that there are “very few attractions” on the Southside, other than the University of Chicago and the area it has gentrified around it. The Southside is overwhelmingly black and latino, and has incredible, underappreciated diversity and cultural histories. They seriously couldn’t scrounge up more than about 3 attractions on the Southside; it is 136 blocks long at its peak and about 1 million people, and has annexed entire small towns in the early 1900s. I’m pretty sure there’s some things to do there.

To wit, 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 41 percent of military veterans, 43 percent of unemployment recipients, 40 percent of Medicare recipients, 43 percent of college Pell Grant recipients and 27 percent of welfare recipients all said they had never used a government social program.

Too many Americans ignorant about their use of government programs - Caveat Lector (via robot-heart-politics)

Classism and the chance of class mobility are blindingly strong.

(via )

Study: Healthy eating is privilege of the rich ›

Nothing new, but I am glad to see 1) data to back up what everyone knows, and 2) strong wording. “Privilege of the rich” is not a phrase I’m used to reading in mainstream news.

SEATTLE — A healthy diet is expensive and could make it difficult for Americans to meet new U.S. nutritional guidelines, according to a study published Thursday that says the government should do more to help consumers eat healthier.

An update of what used to be known as a food pyramid in 2010 had called on Americans to eat more foods containing potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium. But if they did that, the journal Health Affairs said, they would add hundreds more dollars to their annual grocery bill.

Inexpensive ways to add these nutrients to a person’s diet include potatoes and beans for potassium and dietary fiber. But the study found introducing more potassium in a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, said lead researcher Pablo Monsivais, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

"We know more than ever about the science of nutrition, and yet we have not yet been able to move the needle on healthful eating," he said. The government should provide help for meeting the nutritional guidelines in an affordable way.

He criticized some of the marketing for a healthy diet — for example, the image of a plate of salmon, leafy greens and maybe some rice pilaf — and said a meal like that is not affordable for many Americans.

Food-assistance programs are helping people make healthier choices by providing coupons to buy fruits and vegetables, Monsivais said, but some also put stumbling blocks in front of the poor.

He mentioned, as an example, a Washington state policy making it difficult to buy potatoes with food assistance coupons for women with children, even though potatoes are one of the least expensive ways to add potassium to a diet.

The study was based on a random telephone survey of about 2,000 adults in King County, Wash., followed by a printed questionnaire that was returned by about 1,300 people. They note what food they ate, which was analyzed for nutrient content and estimated cost.

People who spend the most on food tend to get the closest to meeting the federal guidelines for potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium, the study found. Those who spend the least have the lowest intakes of the four recommended nutrients and the highest consumption of saturated fat and added sugar.

Good note at the end of the article that this doesn’t even venture into trying to eat organic or local; this is just about getting basic nutrients. Also good note that this is just what people can afford to eat, assuming there’s even a grocery store with fresh produce available to them.

this ain't livin': What Does 'Middle Class' Even Mean? ›

People who are culturally middle class but economically lower class lack power, which is something that gets erased in attacks on ‘the middle class’ as a set of ideals, as an ethic. Many ‘middle class’ ideals are things that I believe should be human rights (access to a college education, for example). Setting people who could be working in solidarity with each other against each other is a brilliant way to deflect attention from the real problem here: The vast income inequalities and the tremendous clout held by the upper class.

I really really like this, this is all stuff I think about a lot. I grew up middle class, but it was much more about social capital than actual economic wealth. Like my parents’ money situation is stable but they know they will always be in debt that they’ll never pay off, so they’ve just adopted a fuck-it attitude and don’t expect to. So then they spent money on encouraging us to do creative things, and spend money on books. They’d figure out our budget down to the penny, and we never had money for cable TV, but then they’d blow the budget on books and paint once food and bills were paid for.

Or like, I grew up in a city with a ton of violence going on, and in an area with less but still too much violence, but it was still different—not better or worse but simply classed differently—than the violence in the lives of a lot of my students. And I think some of them are curious about those differences, about knowing where I grew up and knowing where I went to college, but then being in really isolated neighborhoods that get pretty hectic. One of the first things I had kids asking me was, “Do you live in the hood?” which then led us to realize that some of us live in the same neighborhood.

I also really like the last paragraph in this:

One thing is for sure; the vanishing middle class is a real issue and it’s not something to be sneered at. When people talk about a vanishing middle class, rest assured, they do not mean that upward mobility is in play and middle class people are getting wealthy. They mean that the widening gap between rich and poor has effectively eliminated many people in the middle, forcing people in the social and economic middle class to the economic lower class, even if they continue to think of themselves, socially, as middle class. Common ground between lower and middle class people must be found, preferably before the upper class laughs its way all the way to the bank, and that requires abandoning some attitudes on both sides to work in solidarity with each other.

Especially because this is a fine line to walk, and one that I am thinking about in the context of working with my kids and for all the reasons I put above. I have been in situations a lot of times where someone who is comfortably middle class is then looking down on lower class people and being really patronizing, or talking about how the middle class carries this society blah blah, and what I find really helpful for turning it in a more productive direction is to just ask, “Who is benefiting from you thinking that? Who has more money and more power than you and is seeing that go unchallenged, and benefiting from you saying this?”

#class