On Labor Day, I thought, what better way to celebrate than to show up for cross-class picketing at a local McDonald’s? The first thing I saw was a line of yellow school buses bringing the picketers from the local labor council to the restaurant, partly because many workers rely on a bus, not a car […]
Is Elvis-Hating Classist?
So much depends on whether you are looking up at Elvis from the working poor or working-class or down at him from the middle- and upper-class. When you look at photos of Elvis fans at his funeral or Graceland, they don’t usually look well-off. Their haircuts, clothes, whole demeanor suggest they came from the same […]
Social Class and a Writing Conference
Though not all writing conferences are expensive, many are. A number try, essentially, to take money from those who can afford it to subsidize those who can’t – a worthy policy. But one still tends to meet more wealthy people than poor at a writing conference. Last summer, I attended one on the East Coast that […]
Affordable vs. Attainable Housing
When you think affordable housing, you think $600,000 for a condo, right? With a $12,000 down payment, that would be $3,557 per month for 30 years. Maybe that’s why a new term has arisen in the real estate market, attainable housing. Under the new rules, old safety precautions are ignored. Once, homebuyers were advised to spend no more than […]
10 Facts About Housing Affordability
5 Things to Make You Furious About Housing 1. Realtors and their allies in government keep track of the growing size of single-family homes. But bigger is only better if you’re well-off. The federal government doesn’t track the size of apartments, but numerous articles predict smaller units. A 500 sq ft condo, anyone? 2. Want […]
Forgoing College to Forgo Debt
In education, we are headed toward a perfect storm. Increasingly large numbers of capable students are so afraid of incurring debt that they are deciding not to go to college. I’m not talking about marginal students but successful students. These are not the students that lawmakers are likely to hear about. They and their families are too […]
Rich People’s Church, Poor People’s Church
I have much to say on the topic of religion and class, but let me begin with a disclaimer. I know people who experienced the same churches I did and did not come away angry, feeling they were warped by them. So I recognize that more than one experience is possible. Like many poor and […]
Is That What They Would Say?: Home Knowledge vs. School Knowledge
Two incidents from my school years illustrate the clash between home experience and school assumptions. In second grade, I was drawing in my Alice and Jerry book, a lovely book about the foreign country of the middle class where kids got surprise playhouses for their birthdays— built, painted, and transported by Dad and Grandpa who’d […]
Privatizing Driver’s Ed: a Lesson in Disenfranchisement
When I went to high school in Wisconsin, Driver’s Ed was a required course, first in the classroom where we learned in-depth about rules and safety, and then behind-the-wheel in a room of simulators which offered the physical experience of turning a key, and locating the brake, gas pedal, blinkers, and gear shift. Finally, we […]
Phony rags to riches stories
I just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia, and it irritated me in the same way that many books and movies have irritated me lately: they purport to be the story of extremely humble origins turned into ravishing success through pluck and persistence. But they aren’t. I didn’t mind, in fact I preferred the […]
Google, Hookers, and Heroin
I’ve been compelled, and I feel kind of sick about it, to read about the Google executive who died when a $1,000-a-time call girl—who found serial killers exciting and sexy— shot him up with too much heroin, on his yacht. The picture of decadence. Nine months earlier, his obit had pictured him as a father […]
Denial of class in Downton Abbey’s dream world
Ah, Downton Abbey. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Crises arise, but they are almost always resolved with human kindness. It’s a comforting world; maybe that’s why, despite its blithe ignorance or studied denial of most facts about working-class life, I still watch it. We all need some wish fulfillment, and the wish fulfilled by […]
Your Public Freeway: First Class or Coach?
I have to pinch myself lately because it seems the U.S. has been infiltrated by post-Soviet Russian gangsters bent on turning every public good into a private jackpot. I could talk about public schools, libraries, parks, a litany of places and services that once were available to everyone, but are cut in half now with […]
“Bring Enough for Everyone”: What We Lose When We Lose Public Education
Did your schoolteachers say, “Don’t bring [candy, toys, coveted items] to school unless you bring enough for everyone”? Mine did. Maybe they recognized how incapable children are of understanding the fundamental injustice of wealth inequality, of some people having immensely desirable things that for some reason cannot be attained by others. Those who endured segregation […]
Now Showing in Seattle: A Multicultural Working Class Movement!
Any American interested in the working class should know about Kshama Sawant, an open Socialist (and immigrant), who was recently elected to the Seattle City Council. Recently, I exchanged emails with her assistant, Anh Tran. Rather than repeat widely-known facts, I’ll include some of our email Q & A, which I was grateful to receive […]
Money is No Object: Over-representing the Upper Middle Class on TV?
As a child, I recall watching The Brady Bunch. Wow, they were rich. Although they had a large family, it never seemed to impact their finances. They had money for bikes, vacations, really nice clothes, nice cars, a gleaming kitchen commanded by a servant, a huge house in an obviously nice neighborhood. Didn’t they also […]
Destroying Labor Law in the “Sharing Economy”
Many a magazine, including the usually liberal New Yorker, has gone ga-ga about Taskrabbit, AirBnB, Elance, and other new companies that in one fell swoop make a mockery of fair labor practices, regulated consumer products, minimum wage, and taxes. In a rather lengthy article in which a New Yorker writer gushed about her Taskrabbit experiences, […]
The Price of Passing
Recently, a community college newspaper offered a fashion profile of several students. I was amazed and alarmed to learn that, if they were telling the truth, they were spending $200-plus on a pair of shoes and the same for a handbag. It’s true that the recent economic downturn has sent middle and upper middle class […]
Do We Still Need Race-based Affirmative Action?
Do we, as some claim, live in a post-racial society that no longer requires any special measures to aid equality of opportunity? After all, we have our first black president. What further proof of racial opportunity could anyone want? Well, a lot. Our racial history casts a long shadow particularly in black-white relations, (though other […]
Intracommunity Rejection: Racist, Classist, Tragic
The Facebook post showed a 1950’s cartoon businessman: blonde hair, suit and tie, saying, “No, you can’t ‘axe’ me a question. I don’t speak Walmart.” A snotty enough putdown if it came from racial and class privilege. But it wasn’t posted by an upper-class or even a middle-class person, but a person who has struggled […]