blog

Poverty Constrains Your Wardrobe – and You

I will always remember December 2013. It was a particularly cold winter, and downtown Los Gatos was in the low 30s. My friend Jane rented a carriage and invited me to come along. I declined because I did not have a jacket. I was too ashamed to tell her why, so she was rightfully angry with me. Now that I can buy myself any winter apparel I want, I realize it wasn’t body shame at being too large to borrow a jacket from any of my friends. It was poverty shame. Why is poverty shameful? I grew up middle-class reading;... Read More

Weighing Every Cost: A Genteel Poverty

I am the youngest of 10 siblings. My dad built a successful plumbing business, bought his own shop and employed a few helpers at the height of his business. He even bought a summer home, a Civil-War-era farm out in the country, which he later sold to pay my sibs’ college tuition. My older sibs attended Catholic high schools and colleges. They did not work and their stylish clothes came from department stores, (which I only learned lately). But by the time I was to enroll in Sacred Heart, the all-girls high school my sisters had attended, my dad’s income... Read More

Why Do You Want to Be Poor?

Growing up poor on Long Island builds character. While trying to balance personal responsibilities with maintaining a GPA high enough to make myself a competitive candidate for scholarships and college admissions, I found that I could make several distinct dinner recipes from just adobo seasoning, week-old produce and recooked meat products. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was necessary. It was reality, and to an extent, it is still my reality. As people like me grow up, we learn to be resourceful. We learn that a needle and thread or some safety pins keep coats and pants intact, watered-down soap and an old toothbrush keep shoes... Read More

The Case for the Maximum Wage

For classist put-downs, a maximum wage just may be the ultimate antidote. How raw can class contempt get? Take a look at the venom that oozed out earlier this spring from Ronald Havner, the CEO of Public Storage, America’s biggest self-storage company. This year, for the first time ever, enterprises like Public Storage have had to publicly disclose the ratio between what they pay their CEOs and what they pay their workers. Public Storage’s disclosure revealed that Havner grabbed $10.5 million last year, a whopping 439 times the $23,921 his company’s median – most typical – worker took home. A... Read More

Breaking the Silence about Class in One Liberal Denomination

In 2012, I was lucky enough to attend a remarkable weekend-long Class Action Train-the-Trainers mega-workshop. I did not attend to learn techniques to raise awareness about class and classism but instead to improve my skills as a trainer on the topic of communications and marketing. While the focus of the Class Action workshop was, of course, on social class issues, I had been told by other trainers that the weekend session was also a way to incorporate popular education techniques into my workshops. Little did I know when I signed up for the training that it would inspire me to not only provide facilitation... Read More

The Prosperity Gospel and Classism

As a Christian and a formerly homeless person, I have seen how classism seems to run rampant in American Christianity. This is especially evident in what is often called the Prosperity Gospel. The Prosperity Gospel, in short, is a particularly inviting deception that equates spiritual blessings with material success. Of course, it is entirely conceivable that once a person decides to live according to spiritual wisdom rather than careless foolishness, one might find oneself advancing in material gain. If someone, for example, has been blowing their money on drugs, hookers and other forms of escape, the person would naturally notice... Read More

A Total Commitment to First Gen Students

Instead of a program located in one department, Mount Holyoke provides a dynamic, collaborative initiative focused on ensuring that the august institution is meeting the particular needs of first gen students. According to Latrina Denson, associate dean of students for community and inclusion at the college, the collaborative, the First Gen Network, is comprised of administrators, faculty and staff who come together to ensure that first gens can successfully navigate the various components of college life that could pose challenges. They connect regularly with the college’s First Gen Low-Income Partnership, or FLIP, a student organization for first generation and low-income students that helps students find... Read More

B1GS: First Gen College Students

I am a sophomore at Rutgers University-Camden, studying psychology with a minor in childhood studies and social work. I am also – with great pride – a first generation college student. I aspire to become a child psychologist. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I had the opportunity to attend the Class Action First Gen Summit with six other classmates. This experience was welcoming, influencing and uplifting. It wasn’t until this summit that I truly looked at myself and acknowledged what I have accomplished. At the summit, I learned that my identity as a first gen student was... Read More