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Thoughts on Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Kristoff and WuDunn

An essay adapted from Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, the new book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, appeared in the paper’s Sunday Review section on January 9th. Focusing on “deaths of despair” occurring in the Oregon county where Kristof has roots, the piece tries to square common tropes about how those with social privilege and power write about poor people in the paper of record. To their credit, Kristof and WuDunn point out structural problems, name capitalism, and acknowledge the problem with attributing poverty to cultural deficiencies. But like many in their New York media... Read More

Noticing Inequalities: An Owning Class Student’s Journey to Class Awareness

By Sophie Hatcher-Peters I grew up in North Carolina as a preacher’s kid. My maternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister in the bible belt, and my mother is an ordained minister and religious studies professor. I was raised in a small, predominantly white Presbyterian church – I remember being a child, getting ready for church in dresses with zippers I couldn’t reach, tights that were unbearably itchy, and patent leather shoes that I rapidly scuffed. When I was in middle school, my family moved out of our cookie-cutter house in the suburbs and into an ostentatious house in the middle... Read More

Celebrating Survival: The Experience of Being Working Class During the Holidays

By Anastasia Lynge Anyone who knows me well knows that the two most difficult days of the year for me are holidays – specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas. I typically spend these days hiding away in bed, watching bad TV, and sleeping until I can rest assured that I’ve made it through another round of winter holidays. I emotionally detach from the world, too overwhelmed by the idea of festivities to bear being participating in them. In truth, I don’t remember many of my childhood Thanksgivings and Christmases. I know that they were filled with fights amongst my various family members,... Read More

Listening For Change: How to explore aspects of class identity in therapy

Anyone who walks into my office is immediately searching for or noticing indicators of social identity. As a Korean therapist, I’m often tempted to think race is being centered however, it is not always clear which of my identities clients will focus on when they attend therapy. I have also had to make sense of my own experiences of viewing clients through their social locations of class, race, and gender, among other identities. And I see social class as an often overlooked identity that can be centered within therapy for clinicians and clients of all economic backgrounds. Working on how... Read More

Class Action Book Nook: The Privileged Poor

Anthony Jack’s book Privileged Poor offers unique personal insight into the challenges faced by low income, first-generation college students at the nation’s most elite colleges and universities. Although many colleges will pat themselves on the back for the mere presence of these students, what they fail the realize is how much further they need to go in meeting the social, psychological, emotional, and financial needs of these students in order for them to have parity with their wealthier peers. Dr. Jack combines personal memoir, rigorous scholarship, and rich insights to offer us a road map for improving the experiences of this talented... Read More

Crummy nonprofit jobs – and solutions

by Betsy Leondar-Wright Some of the worst pay I ever got was from progressive social justice organizations. No health benefits at one job; no raise for 4 years at another; once a salary so low I qualified for Food Stamps. In an irony of the nonprofit world, their external missions of equity and economic opportunity weren’t put into practice internally. But rarely did I blame my employers, as I knew that their funding was so scarce that the only alternative to low-paid staff was no staff. Many grants could be spent only on a specific project, but not to keep... Read More

Untold Stories: Bringing Class into the Classroom

By: Adj Marshal and Betsy Leondar-Wright Students often respond with confusion to questions about social class—not surprising given the common assumption that the US is a “classless society.”  The fog surrounding class stratification makes it difficult to teach about economic inequality. Why is class so challenging to teach about? Compared with race or gender, class is less obviously inscribed on the body and more poorly understood, with more gray areas and fewer shared terms for social categories, making identity development a slower and more fraught process. Class background profoundly affects an individual’s social standpoint (Collins 2000), but most students have... Read More

Breaking New Ground in the UK

Training of activist trainers on class and classism. The Exploring Class weekend in Gloucestershire in West England, hosted by the radical nonviolence magazine Peace News, was the first training of activist trainers on class and classism that there’s ever been in Britain, so far as we know. About a week before Exploring Class took place in June, a participant got in touch to check if there were other working-class participants coming. She didn’t want to be in a tiny minority of working-class people at the training of trainers, especially a four-day residential workshop focused on class and classism. Would this... Read More