Class is a relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, occupational status, and power. However, classism is the prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class. Classism is the institutional, cultural, and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic class and an economic system that creates excessive inequalities and causes basic human needs to go unmet. I would define myself as being a member of the upper middle class.
Upper middle class is a part of the middle class. Middle class is broken into three different parts consisting of the lower-middle class, middle class, and upper-middle class. The reason I would classify my family as upper middle class as opposed to other parts of the middle class is that both of my parents are accountants, which makes them have higher incomes due to professional jobs. In claiming this identity, I feel very lucky that I was able to grow up in a very comfortable lifestyle for myself. Coming into this class, I would have classified myself as middle class as I wasn’t even aware there where three different parts in middle class. One memory as a child that I can recall pretty vividly is while I was cleaning out my room every couple years as a child. I remember my parents helping me and I was trying on clothes and the stuff that didn’t fit, we folded and put into a big bag.
I was very confused why we weren’t throwing them away and my parents told me that because I was very lucky I could have these clothes so we are going to give them to people less fortunate so they could have them too. At a young age, I just agreed and never really knew what that meant but as years passed, even without knowing, I could tell the differences in wealth in people that I saw. The high school I went to has three different towns that go to the same school and the amount of wealth in each town is different for the most part. You can tell for the most part in the types of clothing, and ways people acted in where they came from and how much money they had compared to you. This was interesting for me to learn about class at a young age without even knowing I was doing so. In the panel in this class, I didn’t relate to many of the stories, however I did find it very interesting in that people of such different backgrounds are capable of achieving some of the same cultural capital.
In my family, talks about money have never occurred. I remember asking my father how much money he made one day, and he said don’t worry about it and told me to not ask again. To this day, I am still unsure how much money my father and mother make. I am not positive about this, but the reason I think that they didn’t want me to know is so I didn’t talk about it with my friends. I know now as I get older more and more even without them telling me but I know my parents budget their money in a very smart way. When they moved to Suffern, where I live now, a suburb of New York City, they chose this town as the school district was vey good and they wouldn’t need to send me to public school to get a “better” education. Also, although they could have afforded it, they chose to live in a development of houses instead of getting a freestanding house, which would have been more money and more money in taxes. These were a couple examples of how my parents budgeted their money in order to give the whole family a better lifestyle in my opinion. This is because if I wanted something on the more expensive side, or needed something, they wouldn’t need to think about how they could afford it or pay for it. Personally, I think this is very smart of them and will definitely look to do the same in my future.
Although my parents are upper middle class, I have still had a couple jobs. They knew that having experience would help me in the long run when I apply for a real job coming out of college. I have talked about how much money I made in these jobs with my friends but I feel as if these jobs that I have had, such as a camp counselor, and then the difference in starting my career job are totally different. I don’t see myself talking about my starting salary with my friends even though I am sure other people will. I think that this is something personal. My guess would be that this is because this is the way my parents feel and without knowing it, this is what they told me is normal. I don’t feel uncomfortable talking about money but through personal experiences, it is not something that I do very often.
Class is only one aspect of ones identity. When someone asks me who I am, class is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. I would say I am a white male before I say that I am a member of the upper middle class. This being said that a person can have more than one identity, they do intersect with one another. Stereotypes have been made about the intersection of identities. For example, Jewish people are supposed to be rich. Maybe it is true that Jewish people will be wealthy and live a comfortable life, but this isn’t necessarily true. Jewish people are no different than anyone else, besides the fact that they practice that religion, in the sense that they are human and they don’t have to be wealthy just because they are Jewish.
Personally, I believe that class does play a role in education. Back when my grandfather was eighteen, and thinking about college, he did not have a choice in where he was going to go to school. He did not have that much money at all in his family, so if he didn’t go to City College, which at that time was free, he was not going to go anywhere. He would have had to start working in order to help the family pay their bills. This wasn’t just the case for my grandfather either. My mother and father where told what schools they were going to go to strictly based on what their parents can afford. They both were able to go to college, and luckily for me they ended up being very successful people and didn’t have to put to many limitations on where I was able to go. The college process is very complicated nowadays.
Some people get into schools because they are athletes, donate money, and other such acts even though they may not be academically meet the requirements for the school as Peter Schmit says in his article “At the Elite Colleges”. I was told since a young age that I was going to college and didn’t really have a choice about it. This is does not mean that I didn’t work to get to where I am today. Karen Pittelman and Resource Generation say in the article “Deep Thoughts About Class Privilege”, “Acknowledging how class privilege impacts our lives doesn’t have to mean abandoning pride in ourselves. Our hard work is still hard work.” This means that just because we have some sort of privilege in our lives, doesn’t mean it was handed to us on a silver platter. I, for one, still work extremely hard to do well in school. However, this is what I want anyway cause I know with this education I am receiving, I will hopefully become very successful in the future and will be able to give my kids the same opportunity as my parents did. When I get my bachelors degree in business administration, I will try and find a job, but if that isn’t the case, I will look to get my masters. I am lucky enough where I do not need to worry about debt coming out of school so my options are wide open and will make that decision when the time comes.
I do not think that a world without classism is possible. There will always be different classes and for that matter, people will have the prejudice that people who do not have as much money as them are inferior. I think one huge step would be admitting you have oppressed people because of class, and realizing it is wrong is the first step you can take before trying to fix this ongoing problem such that Betsy Leondar-Wright does in her article, “Classism From Our Mouths” and “Tips from Working-Cass Activists”. I think that there can be actions, such as teaching this oppression so people understand it better, that can lead to less classism in the future but realistically speaking, I do not think there will ever be a time without classism.
“Acknowledging how class privilege impacts our lives doesn’t have to mean abandoning pride in ourselves. Our hard work is still hard work.” Karen Pittleman and Resource Generation, Deep Thoughts About Class Privilege. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. (pg 219)
Sections in a book:
Schmidt (2010) At the Elite Colleges. Readings for Social Diversity and Social Justice (pg 173-174)
Leondar (2010) “Classism From Our Mouths” and “Tips from Working-Cass Activists”. Readings for Social Diversity and Social Justice (pg 214-218)
Collins, Yeskel (2010) The Dangerous Consequences of Growing Inequality. Readigs for Social Diversity and Social Justice (pg 155-169)