Classism; or, I am Fucking Proud of Where I Come From

For the past year or so, the Challenging Racism program at our UU church has been hosting events designed to begin a conversation on classism. My schedule finally allowed me to go to a discussion session today.

………..

Before reading on, it might help to know my personal story/identities, in order to understand where the following statements and reflections originate. I come from a blue collar, immigrant family. I am a first generation college student. My parents were a welder and a social worker and officially below the poverty threshold for much of my childhood (partially because we had such a large family). I was solidly lower class for my entire childhood. BUT I went to one of the Seven Sisters schools for my undergraduate degree and to one of the Big 10 Research universities to get my masters. I’m a white, cis-gendered female who does not flaunt her sexual proclivities. My first full-time job after I got my masters, I am making more than my parents have made at most points in their lives. And now, I suddenly belong to the professional middle-class, and there’s this dissonance….

………..

As I sort of expected when I went into the discussion today, I was the “token” person representing lower class groups. Well, this isn’t strictly true – folks told stories of coming from myriad backgrounds. But I still had the sense of being that outsider who “got it” and who actively engaged in the struggle today. There were moments in the conversation when someone expressed something that was just so….not right, and others nodded in agreement, and there’s only so much that I can try to say.

So often, in groups of people like the UUs at my church and in groups I encounter at work or socially, people make these broad statements that assume we all come from the same background and all have the same experiences and the same values. I get it. I get why it happens at the church: the UU faith tradition tends to attract “thoughtful rebels” who are largely white, upper to middle class with high levels of education and liberal values. But just because we tend to look and dress and act and speak the same way, it does not mean that we come from the same place. Every time I’m in a situation where someone makes a statement about “us” v. “them,” where “them” refers to the lower-classes, I get uncomfortable, and I get angry.

Because these statements erase my history and my identity. I am fucking proud of where I come from. My parents worked so hard to feed and clothe and educate six kids, and send us all off to really great schools, and also manage to pay off the mortgages of two houses in twenty years and pay down half of another mortgage in just seven years. They are rock stars. And they taught me to work hard, to work 20-30 hours a week at part-time jobs while going to school full-time. I struggled financially, because the safety net that others take for granted was almost non-existent in my case, and I am so proud of myself for getting out of my tough financial messes and for getting to where I am today. I am proud of that history, of the values my parents taught me, of the struggles that we were dealt and that we did not succumb to. And conversations that assume that I am from a solidly middle-class family where poverty was never an issue – these conversations erase a huge part of who I am.

There’s also this stigma that exists around being lower class. People tiptoe around it, they tiptoe around discussions of poverty, they are uncomfortable admitting that their parents struggled or that they personally cannot afford to go on this trip or pay for that dinner. It’s such bullshit. How much you earn should not reflect on who you are (and yet, it does, and here we are having discussions about classism). At several moments in the discussion today, people talked about striving to raise social statuses, about going to “visit the poor” in order to “improve them” (ok, that exact phrasing wasn’t used, but the meaning was the same). At several points, people touched on how, in order to belong to a higher social class, people need to assimilate, to dress and act and talk the way of the upper class.

Discussions about classism that focus on improving the plight of the lower class, that basically say “poor people shouldn’t be poor,” continue to reinforce the prejudices that brought us together today. 

Society as a whole is so oriented towards celebrating wealth and upper class power, that we have forgotten to celebrate the values of the lower class. My parents taught me the value of hard work, of family and community, of independence and self-reliance. In a world where helicopter parents call professors when their children get bad grades and where “affluenza” allows a killer to walk free, the upper and middle classes could stand to take a good, long look at the values of the supposed “lower” class.

Jane Addams got it. That’s why her Hull Houses were meant to be “mutually beneficial” to both upper and lower class folks (I say this with a grain of salt, understanding that the application of her theory left something to be desired). She understood that each class had different things to offer the other. When our conversations about class turn to going out into the community and helping the lower class, then we start to step into that uncomfortable “white savior” role. When our conversations about class begin with the assumption that everyone wants to be upper class, no reservations, then we ignore the identities that are not welcomed in an upper class world, identities which people must often leave behind in order to become part of that world.

Class affects us in huge ways, ways that we aren’t even aware of, ways that can be incomprehensible to someone from a different class. I didn’t even realize some of the ways in which I’ve been affected until today. I feel dissonance within because I come from a lower class background with which I still relate intensely and yet I have been thrust suddenly into a middle-class, professional world with which I don’t always identify. It’s why I refuse to listen to classical music or read Literature-with-a-capital-L (even though I majored in the more esoteric of Literary studies) – because I associate both things with the hauteur of a middle/upper class that looks down on the hoi polloi and their interests. And it’s why I struggled and continue to struggle to relate to a boyfriend and to friends who haven’t experienced these same things that come from being lower class and/or immigrant.

………..

I know that, above, I am just touching on some of the conversations ongoing in this topic. I haven’t really delved into classism much, partially because I feel so strongly about it and know that I have the potential to get so angry about it, and I worry about alienating people that are my friends and are my community. I don’t know if I will continue to attend classism events at the UU, even though my ears are sharply tuned to catch statements that accidentally display the privilege that comes of being born and made middle/upper class. But then again, I am uniquely positioned, by grace of my background and my education, to bridge a divide here and to speak about some of these things in a way that an audience with a similar education might finally understand. So….I don’t know.

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31 Responses to Classism; or, I am Fucking Proud of Where I Come From

  1. Marzipan says:

    How could this be a constructive conversation?

    • Angel says:

      What about my comments above is not constructive?

    • Adam says:

      I’m hoping what Marzipan is getting at is “How can we work together to work collaboratively so that all people are welcome and feel safe at discussions/in the community,” and was just not very eloquent with their statement.

      • Angel says:

        Okay, I hope so, too. I perceived some antagonism in the original question that perhaps got my hackles up.

        For what it’s worth, I did a bit of thinking about “moral anger” and the role of anger in activism and how it can be both persuasive and dissuasive depending on the audience. When writing the post above, I was more focused on expressing my anger and frustration and trying to break that sense of being invisible and being erased and not having a voice. I was careful not to attack anyone in my post above, but it’s very true that some people might feel alienated.

        That being said, I respectfully reserve the right to express my anger when I feel I’m not being heard. This post expresses better than I can the right to not be “nice” all the time.

  2. Gail Geisenhainer says:

    I hope you do continue to attend. I plan to be at the one on March 2nd. I was out of Michigan yesterday. Study Leave. Spent time this am reading Skinner House book, “ELITE: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History.” There is work to do. I tried to “unpack” some of my own points of privilege in my Jan 26 sermon. The work is huge. The need…, endless. In UUism i have found it so much easier to be Gender-Queer, homosexual…, all those markers. But descended from a seamstress, a nanny, a farmer? Those elements of my own identity are harder to find acknowledgement for. Never mind trying to find connection about being edicated out of my class culture by being the first with graduate level education. As you described to acutely, UU conversations here in Ann Arbor tend to “erase a huge part of who I am.” I know my own anger on this. I know how horrendous I feel when I am rendered invisible by the prevailing assumptions. I also know that Unitarian Universalism is not something I inherit from others. It is something I make with the people who are here. Now. I sincerely hope that cadre: here-now, includes you.

    • Angel says:

      Thank you, again and again, Gail, for being so tremendously supportive. It makes me nervous to engage in this conversation, because it’s so important and because I am worried about alienating people I know and love. But I am so inspired by people (like you!) who have been comfortable coming forward and saying they have experienced the same thing. I’m NOT the token lower-class person – the others are there, we’re just hiding.

      It would be interesting to think about this conversation within the different contexts of Unitarian Universalism and Ann Arbor (and Michigan?), and how those two contexts affect the conversation.

  3. Dawn Fortune says:

    yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
    I have been writing off and on for a couple years an essay with the working title “is there room for my blue collar in this ivy league denomination?” One of the frustrations is that for it to be received by much of the targeted audience, I need to use language and a voice that feels inauthentic to my identity. I’ve gotta “smarten it up.”
    I’ve been on food stamps and got free lunch at school. I have worked in factories and on bridges and in paper mills. I’ve driven a transit bus and been a private contractor. I weld for fun. And I’m about to graduate seminary and begin ministry in a denomiation that fits me theologically, but leaves me struggling socially much of the time.
    I am glad to see that I am not alone. And I am glad to assure you that you are not alone. Thank you for speaking the truth of your lived experience.

    • Angel says:

      Dawn, thank you! I’m so glad to find others who can relate! The support I have gotten for this post has been pretty awesome. For all of us who have lived this experience, it seems there are as many or more people who are happy to hear our voices. Amazing…

      The first part of your response is so on target. One of the interesting parts of the discussion yesterday focused on language and how it can include or exclude people from a group. It’s about performing the way the dominant group expects. But, of course, assimilating is problematic, because it means stifling a part of your identity. That is a difficult position to be in. I empathize with you.

    • E Daniel Ayres says:

      Go for it… We need your perspectives as nuch or more than ones like mine.

  4. Diane Miller says:

    I appreciated your thoughts. When I was interim senior minister at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, CO I noticed more occupational, educational, and income diversity than in other congregations I served. Neighbors on the street where I rented a house that year worked at the Coors plant and drove by the church coming and going — they were familiar with it from sermon topics posted there.

    • Angel says:

      How intriguing, Diane. It’d be interesting to know how that congregation differed from perhaps less diverse congregations in terms of sermon topics/style, services offered, groups available, etc.

  5. L says:

    Thanks for this reflection. I have a different experience, but feel similar dissonances. I did NOT grow up poor. I fit into the upper middle class white liberal category, and though not Ivy League, I went to Oberlin. So, you know. That. :)

    But then I graduated. And I worked in low wage jobs. And my parents bailed me out a couple of times when things got financially impossible. Add Seminary and some bad financial choices I made in earlier years due to a sense of entitlement whose consequences I did not really grok until later… I have minimal savings. I have a TON of seminary debt and a teensy bit of other debt. I have a great job with great benefits, but I make JUST ENOUGH to make ends meet if my car doesn’t break or my dog doesn’t get sick. And if I buy conventional produce and shop for certain staples at Wal-Mart. Because that’s all I can afford right now.

    And now I serve as a minister in a substantially lower economic bracket than the assumed “norm” of UUism. Because I grew up “like that,” I feel a strong pull to continue to fit in and not admit the difference. As a minister, I feel that I am assumed to be in the same bracket, and expected to take a leadership role with my pledge. I have politely refused invitations because I can’t afford to do the thing I’m being invited to do.

    Part of my role in all this is to continue to call out the places where we (the congregation I serve) assume that people who participate in the life of the church are affluent. But I can’t count the number of times I have felt shame because I can’t afford something. Or chosen not to even bid on something at the church auction, because I might win, and then have to pay for it. Or worried that someone would notice that I mix and match separates instead of wearing a different suit each Sunday. And I can’t possibly afford to go to most of the ministers’ continuing education events, either, which is an entirely other story.

    But the biggest shame of it all is the part where I know that people can’t see that I might be having a different experience than theirs. There is a piece of this, I think that is based in fear about how shaky the economic system is and how close we all are to having it all fall apart — medical bills, an under water mortgage, a lost job, and you’re in the soup fighting to make ends meet.

    I don’t pretend to suggest that my experience is the same as someone who grew up poor. What I know is that part of the reason I am in the situation I’m in now, with no substantial cushion and stretching each dollar, is because I never understood that I wouldn’t always have what I grew up with. If I had understood that, I might have made different choices. But the more we (UUs) pretend that we are all the same economically, the harder it will continue to be to have these conversations. And the LAST thing I want is for someone to come into the church on Sunday morning and feel the kind of shame I have felt. Because I’m invested. I believe in this place. But if I wasn’t and I didn’t, and I walked in the door and felt shamed, I’d be outta here.

    • Angel says:

      Thank you so much, L, for sharing your experience and story and for your incredible honesty. This is so powerful.

      When you wrote, “the LAST thing I want is for someone to come into the church on Sunday morning and feel the kind of shame I have felt,” I nodded my head so hard at this. That internalized shame is so painful… When I went through a really tough patch financially two years ago, there was a lot of shame and humiliation. And it was really hard to have friends and a social life when I kept having to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” After a while, because I didn’t want to lose my friends, I started being honest and explaining that I simply couldn’t afford to go out. It started off simple. And then I started growing more comfortable admitting that I was broke and didn’t have the funds to do this or that. It was strange, but after I was able to admit, calmly and without shame, to friends that I couldn’t afford these things, a lot of the inner shame started going away, I think because I stopped associating my personal worth with my financial worth. Or maybe just because people were so non-reactive, just calmly accepting what I said without judgment.

      …but I don’t know that that’s an answer. I think a lot of my comfort in talking about my financial limitations also stems from hope and trust in the future. My degree and my current job show a lot of promise for good things, so I have a measure of security – of privilege – there.

  6. Thank you for this piece. For your anger and your engagement. I want to say there is room for you, room for your anger, room for your nice talk — and I hope that we as a faith movement and wherever you are geographically not only make room and welcome you and your perspective, but witness to the complex truth it brings. I have had class dissonances, though the ones in my UU community have held less sway over me than in other contexts. They have been a spiral that has been lessening, but it visits and revisits me — life phases seem to heighten them, so I don’t think it’s done. I see it in my teenage kids’ expectations, I see it in my fears of old age, I see it in confusion about how to call my class identity, feeling compelled to claim the privilege I hold now (education, relative lack of debt, two-income family, etc.) and not sure how to honorably acknowledge how wobbly it is, how my mother lives on a very precarious edge and our ties are not just psychological and spiritual, but are financial and complex.

    • Angel says:

      Thank you, Karen. I have already felt that my words have been welcomed and heard. It seems to me, from all the other stories being shared here, from the story that you shared, that others also need to be heard.

      Also, hello to Northampton (as per your recent post)! :) I have fond memories of the place. I used to always walk by the UU church in that pic and think briefly about going in and never do so.

  7. K Rohde says:

    Class is pretty complicated, as you describe, and you don’t mention all the regional markers. My parents were highly educated but our family was larger than average and had an income at the lower end of working class. They themselves came from disparate class backgrounds, Mom’s Dad was a small businessman and Dad was an orphan whose father was killed in an industrial accident. So we didn’t fit in anywhere. We dressed like the kids w/o money and were handicapped amongst those we were in school with, but read the best books and were scholarship students at good colleges. We didn’t learn the social graces early in life, but living in the West that was less of a handicap than it was when several of us moved to the East. In the East, many UU’s looked down on people like us, but in the west we were a better fit. I don’t have any personal friends who grew up with money at an upper middle class level and have tended to feel less comfortable around such people. Teacher’s children were always the best fit for us, socially, but I had more friends whose parent’s struggled financially and none who lived “up on the hill”. As a older woman, I am often taken aback by the degree of fear I see amongst many UU’s when it comes to interacting with people who are poor.

    • Angel says:

      Thank you for sharing, K Rohde. I hadn’t really thought about how differently class can be perceived based on geography. I’ve lived most of my life in the Eastern part of the United States, but in that time, have lived in New England, Georgia, the Midwest and several “rust belt” areas. You’re entirely right that “social graces” and dressing right matter less in certain areas.

  8. LS says:

    I could have written L’s comment, although I didn’t, and my identity is complicated in several ways, so I spend a lot of time weaving through the intersections of identity. One of the challenges I perceive in this whole situation is that the values of both upper/middle (and yes, lumping them together is ALSO problematic) and lower classes are, in my experience, profoundly oppositional. That is, both groups are proud to be who they are…and in the way of many identity groups, they in part use disdain for other value systems to define the boundaries. So someone with lower class values cannot honor the values of the upper class as well; someone with upper class values cannot honor the values of the lower class as well. EITHER you value wealth OR you value hard work. We have not yet arrived with class where we have (mostly) arrived with theology, where one can be atheist and honor Christianity as equally valid and valuable, or be polytheist pagan and honor a monotheist’s religious structure. By rooting the conversation in opposition we make it nearly impossible to have a conversation where we see each other as equals. It’s an INCREDIBLY rare thing for me to meet someone who is not themselves class mobile (either direction) who honestly and truly respects people and values of other classes, and hard though it may be for upperclass people to imagine it, this goes both ways. Lower class people don’t generally respect people who can’t figure out how to make $50 cover dinner for four for the last two weeks of the month, or who would be at a loss to figure out how to get around without a car. Every experience has its skillset, its values, and its deficits. We see the same problem with the adult/youth/child trifurcation (is that a word?) in our congregations, where adults are assumed to have cornered the market on best choices and best contributions to community. It requires a radical restructuring of brains to unmake these separations, and the first thing that needs to go is the idea that any of them are better than any other.

    • Angel says:

      You’re quite right, LS. The values are and can be very different between the classes. And yes, that disdain is also very real. I’ve noticed it in myself and struggle to get away from it – but it’s hard to do so when I feel like a certain class is looking down on my roots.

      I like this statement that you made, “We have not yet arrived with class where we have (mostly) arrived with theology, where one can be atheist and honor Christianity as equally valid and valuable, or be polytheist pagan and honor a monotheist’s religious structure.” It rather reorients how we approach this discussion and could be a way forward. Imagine sermons/discussions where people proudly claim where they come from and discuss the values that they were raised with and we all listen with curiosity and interest….

      • Angel says:

        Thinking further about that idea…

        Speaking from my experience with 3 years of Chalice Circles, I have to say that UUs love origin stories. In our CC program, in the first session we always discuss our religious and spiritual histories and find common ground in that. Recently, as part of the reproductive justice curriculum which we’ve been doing here, in the third session, our small group talked about our reproductive histories. This was only supposed to take up a small portion of the session, but ended up taking up the bulk of the 2 hour session. It was a profoundly moving experience, often tragic, sometimes funny. Having these opportunities to talk about where we come from allows us to connect with others more deeply and to find commonalities. If there’s anything I learned from Chalice Circles, it’s that there’s always something that I can relate to and that is personally meaningful in someone else’s story.

  9. Two initial thoughts: I appreciate that the internet allows the kind of discussion here. Second, I feel your writing speaks to an issue that coats congregations and yet remains … unappreciated, unrecognized. We are different. We are really different. I mean, when I sit next to someone in church, I have a slight awareness that we are different. Your words remind me that we are different. This person next to me has experiences I will never know and appreciate, no matter how much I try to listen and empathize, I will never fully understand who sits beside me.
    I used to believe in empathy. I listen. You share. Then I nod and say I get it – from your point of view. Since falling on hard times, since being different from others in my men’s group, since struggling with self-worth as related to income and employment status and identity — I now feel betrayed by the high standard of empathy. Sure, we might make good attempts to “get it” from someone else’s point of view. But I won’t get you. You won’t get me. Same with the person next to me in church.
    What am I to do with this cynical perspective of the virtuous goal of empathy? The phrase that came to mind when I read your post was “Less do-unto. More be-with.” The conversation is necessary, but in most cases (except in cases of safety) response is not the best solution after listening to someone. Best response? Be-with.
    I write this as if I have the answer to difficult conversations. Can it really be that simple? No. Of course not. There is a mosaic of people in our congregation. Some are listeners. Some are solutions people. Some are organizers. Some are supporters. But quite often, in these difficult conversations, the first plan of attack should be to identify that something exists. Then BE with that. Be okay with that. Then do it again. Rinse and repeat. I think there will be tremendous value if we start with that.

    • Angel says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, Dave. I am sorry to hear about your recent struggles and appreciate your willingness to share this with us.

      This idea of “Less do-unto. More be-with” – I’ll have to think about this a bit more and what it means. Are we pre-disposed, as UUs, to actively engage in doing unto? Are we so social justice-oriented that we have forgotten/fallen out of the practice of being with?

      As to your comments about empathy and how we really can’t ever truly be in the same place as someone…during the course of the classism discussion at church, someone made a good point about finding commonality in struggle and suffering. We may not have suffered in the same way, but we have all suffered. We know what it means to be in pain, whether the pain is the result of financial distress, racism, physical illness, loss of loved ones, and on and on. At core, we have all felt pain and suffering and can at least find commonality in that, even if the context of the pain is different. Is that too simplistic? Or am I committing this error of “doing-unto” as opposed to “being-with” you? :)

  10. I suppose I represent the “Middle Class” in some ways. Both of my parents came from lines descended from colonists who migrated to the future United States before the revolutionary war. To some extent, because of that, Land and intergenerational transfers of relative good fortune followed. My father’s father died of a “massive heart attack” when he was only 13, and being the oldest, he went to work to support the family starting in 1923. By applying himself and taking a path which insured steady income rather than persuit of his first live, music, he achieved a PhD in organic Chemistry from Duke in the 1930’s, and met and married my mother who was an only child descendant of a long line of Scottish highland Presbyterians and ministers/missionaries some of whom landed on the second or third boat to land in Jamestown. The small party of clansmen migrated inland to what is now Kentucky and were mentioned there in Daniel Boone’s biography as a place that hosted him several times as he surveyed the road into Kentucky. My mother was the first PhD candidate in the department of Physiology at Yale, but due to the old guard sexism which was still strong back then was repeatedly examined on her knowledge of Anatomy when her real interest was in a field that did not even exist yet, psychophysiology. As a lab assistant she made diabetic dogs for a researcher named Baker in his lab which was credited in many circles with the “invention” of Insulin.

    My parents joined the Unitarian Congregation of Pittsburgh in the 1950’s when my father was doing corporate classified research after WW II. (During the war his work was also “Top Secret.” I found out later he worked on “non lethal poison gasses” the forerunner of Mace. That congregation was the center of my social life growing up. When the Unitarians and Universalists first contemplated merger, they chose to hire independent Youth Ministers and founded a separate joint effort to serve “Liberal Religious Youth.” L.R.Y. was the center of my social life in High School where I was considered an “outsider” because of my non-local social connections and political views. My parents when I first became aware of politics were deathly afraid (my mother was a stay at home mom who had serious post-partem psychosis after my youngest brother was born when she was 44) of the McCarthy witch hunts which included attacks on the Boston University Student’s Club where my father had once been elected president during his undergraduate days. I campaigned against Dwight David Eisenhower for Adeli E. Stevenson and still have a silver pin from that campaign which depicts a “hole in the sole” of a shoe commemorating a political flap over the fact that Stevenson showed up at an event with a worn out shoe. My first trip south of the Mason Dixon line was on a train excursion from Washington DC organized and coordinated by L.R.Y. to the campus of the Quaker college at Guiliford, NC. The group of mostly white northerner L.R.Y. kids included a few black youth from Chicago and one or two other Unitarian or Universalist congregations in the Midwest arrived on a Sunday for a week long conference in the summer of 1957 and got off the train hungry at around 6 pm. We fanned out looking for a place where we could eat together and some were directed to the only “sit down restaurant” open that day. It was in the first floor of the biggest hotel in town which catered to the trainsiency associated with Guillford College. The incident which occurred there is key to this long story. The group numbering about 10 or 12 high school aged youth entered the hotel and sat down at the largest vacant table in the place. No waiter appeared. We became aware that everyone in the place was looking at us and it was obvious that it was because we were a mixed group. We sat for over an hour, asked for a waiter, etc., etc. and were basically shunned. Finally we got up as a group and left. We found food eventually out of the back window of a black owned store on the dirt streets of the black side of town.

    Several of us were so impacted by this experience that we drafter a resolution directed at our host college basically saying that if something wasn’t done about the treatment we experienced in the town, L.R.Y. was never coming back! It passed by acclimation at the end of the week. That fall, some intrepid quaker students at Guilford College who had heard about the incident organized themselves and began a sit in which eventually broke the color barrier at that hotel. I was 14 at the time.

    Three years later, at age 17 between high school and college I volunteered with the UU Service Committee to spend the summer working at Clarence Darrow Community Center in LeClair Courts Housing on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. I was allowed to do so, even though I was younger than the required age in the job description. The summer team included four UU young people who worked under the supervision of a full time social worker doing social group work with kids who had qualified through the school system for this intensive 8 week summer program. Each of us worked with a group of 20 “summer program” kids. The system had identified them as the most “at risk” or “emotionally and socially impaired”. The program in 1960 divided the kids up by age cohort and sex. I had 7 and 8 year old boys. This summer experience helped me “open my eyes” to the vast social and cultural differences which plague our society, even more than my “below the Mason-Dixon line adventures three years earlier.

    IMHO and in my experiences, committed UU’s do not necessarily exhibit the kind of “Classism” the writer challenges us with. The problem is that not enough of us go out of our way to emphasize the values which might reduce the “selection bias” our churches clearly tend to have simply because one of the pieces of glue that holds most of them together is a cluster of cultural values characterized by greater education, liberal politics, incomes enough to be able to afford the membership obligations imposed by our congregations, etc. One of the policy decision in my own church which almost triggered my resignation from the congregation was a recent change in corporate bylaws which defines voting membership as membership in a pledge unit. Effectively this says, if you can’t pay to be here, don’t come! Frankly “that ain’t right.”

  11. Sandy Eyl says:

    Angelina, I’m so sorry if I said something wrong in the discussion, or agreed with someone who was hurtful. I know that a lot of subtleties of conversation go over my head, and I need to be more mindful of what is happening in the moment if I can ever hope to catch these slights.

    I actually thought a lot about this Sunday and Monday evening and remembered how my family’s financial struggles throughout childhood were actually hard to deal with while I was in school, when I didn’t have the clothes that were in style, or enough money to buy an instrument to play in the middle school band. Strange thing is that I seem to have totally moved on from those hurts after having a full time job for nearly 12 years, getting married, and buying a home.

    What have I not outgrown? Neither of my parents taught me frugality, or any way to manage a stable financial life other than paycheck to paycheck. It is something I am aware of every day, and though I have made a start at savings for retirement and am putting some money away each payday in a savings account, I continuously feel incapable in managing my outflow. Perhaps the mindless ‘yes’ answers I give to this or that meal or trip are a rebound from those times when I didn’t have a choice.

    • Angel says:

      Thanks, Sandy. I think I’ve been trained to look out for problematic statements, lol.

      Thank you for reflecting on your own experiences and ongoing struggles. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to recover from childhood hurts, now that you have a measure of financial security. And I can relate completely to your comment about not knowing how to handle your money once you are independent and not knowing how to say “no” to fun offers. I’ve actively started going to personal finance workshops and reading resources online in order to work on this aspect.

      Speaking about finances and going out to eat and all that…I’ve wondered occasionally if we can do more in the 20s and 30s group to make sure that the events that we do don’t deter people from coming because of finances. Let’s discuss this more, soon.

  12. Pingback: Follow-up to my post on classism » Thoughtful Pauses

  13. Pingback: UUA outreach, the Mass Moral March, challenging classism, and more « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

  14. Good blog. I came across a comment that the word racism exists but there really isn’t an equivalent word for classism – and using the word classism feels uncomfortable – as if the word doesn’t exist and you shouldn’t be talking about it anyway.
    There needs to be s spotlight on social class bigotry/condecension/patronage and the ongoing slurs against working/lower/poor people in general – the constant propaganda that makes out we are a class of imbeciles, lazy, parasites, feral, criminal, mentally damaged, sexually immoral loud mouthed exhibitionists. Society would have broken down long ago if these slurs were true. We are the people who do most of the work in society, underpaid and insulted into the bargain.

  15. UUnderstand says:

    Raised in an asset-comfortable but cash-poor family by small-business owners who were born during the Great Depression, I think the biggest (unspoken) lesson I learned about class growing up was that it has far less to do with money than behavior: if you ever read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, you know what I mean. Generally speaking, I learned that people with “class” are usually neat and clean, pick up litter instead of littering, don’t casually use vulgarity or profanity in public, and help other people.

    I appreciate good literature and classical music (instrumental only, but definitely NOT opera). Since we were affected by the Great Recession four years ago I have had to stop buying almost all new books and even most used books, but I still make an annual donation to the public library, now the source for 95% of my reading materials. Also due to the Great Recession, dinner out is now a rarity. . .which means my kitchen skills have improved from “cook” to (occasionally) “chef!” In our home, grocery purchases often include organic produce, whole-grain bread, and hormone-free milk. . .and also store-brand pasta, rice, and beans.

  16. My background would be what used to be described as respectable working class. I grew up in a crime free rural area. We did not meet people of higher class but everyone was appropriately socialised, working and courteous. I was not even aware of social class until I grew up. And then I met the wider worlds definition of class – which is akin to racism. Being interested in conservation I went to a conservation group and was ignored. I went to a chess club and was mocked. When I applied for jobs people suggested my qualifications were fraudulent and suggested a gap in my CV meant I might have been in prison. Most of my family were well educated, some tertiary level and many worked in middle class jobs – but they were never accepted by middle class people who were born middle class.

  17. Amy says:

    At least they are trying. I would have left the UU church very early on, but my son wanted to go. So for years I attended and listened to their blatant classism, including mockery and discrimination. (We even changed locations, and found the same thing both places.) I called one person out on the discrimination in a mediation and succeeded in making them feel guilty and cry, but it really did nothing to change their ways nor address all the people who stood silently by as the discrimination happened. Now, the mention of the UU church gives me an automatic reaction of disgust and anger, which I try to hide for my son’s sake. (Many in the congregation have been wonderful to him. Although he has mixed feelings about how they treat him vs. how they treat his friends, he continues to attend.) I am just glad that now that he has his driver’s license I never have to step foot in the place again.

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