Felice’s mission of making classism a diversity issue

When Felice Yeskel started graduate school in the 1980s, she was outraged that the Social Issues Training Project at the UMass Education School omitted classism from its curriculum. Every aspiring diversity trainer had to practice facilitating two-day workshops on sexism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and anti-Semitism – but not classism. Felice had been severely oppressed as a young lesbian, and she walked around perpetually pissed off at sexism — but looming huge over those experiences of oppression was the disrespect targeted at her working-class family, and the shame she felt, as a scholarship student at a private school, about her... Read More

Don’t be a classist anti-racist!

While naming “white privilege” is an important part of exposing and dismantling structural racism, I can see how the term “privilege” is hard to swallow for white folks on the downside of our economic system.  Being marginalized in one power system doesn’t mean you can’t be privileged in another.  But this particular form of pushback should not be so easily dismissed as generic white resistance to confronting white privilege.  Rather, the resistance I experience from poor and working class white people feels like an important opportunity to check my own class privilege and cross-class competence, as well as to develop... Read More

Celebrating Felice Yeskel

Felice Yeskel, a peaceful warrior for economic justice, has left us.   After a 2-year battle with cancer, Felice died on Tuesday Jan 11, surrounded by loving family and friends in Amherst, Mass. Felice was a remarkable trainer and public speaker on issues of class, human liberation and economic justice.  Her irreverent sense of humor and big-hearted embrace of everyone will be greatly missed. Felice grew up on the Lower East Side of New York, the only child of Phyllis and Harry Yeskel.  Her father drove a truck that collected flour sacks from bagel and bialy bakeries around the city.    Felice... Read More

Memories of Felice and class

A few memories of Felice and class from Betsy Leondar-Wright I remember when Felice first identified herself as working-class. When she was in her mid-20s, members of Movement for a New Society (MNS) began caucusing by class background, and she joined a middle-class caucus. After all, she had always known that she’d be going to college; wasn’t that a marker of being middle class? But Fai Coffin, a Jewish working-class woman, took her aside and told her she was not middle class, she was working class; that values about education and class worked differently for Jews. Felice had grown up... Read More

Mourning the loss of Felice Yeskel

Felice Yeskel, co-founder of Class Action, passed away in her home early this morning after a courageous struggle with cancer. Felice was a tireless activist working to bring about social change. Through fearlessly sharing her personal story, first as a lesbian and later sharing her working-class history to help break down the walls of classism, she touched the lives of thousands of people. Her passion to help create a more just world for all of us led her and Chuck Collins to found United for a Fair Economy, to found  the Stonewall Center at UMASS, and six years ago to... Read More

What was the most classist comment of 2010?

It was a bumper year for callous, elitist politicians and CEOs spouting off in public. Cast your vote for one of these doozies, or add another 2010 classist comment to this list: • When Carl Paladino ran for governor of New York, he got a lot of media coverage for his homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim comments, but less for his lovely little plan to convert prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, reported by the Associated Press: “Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene.” • When there was... Read More

Class in the Classroom

There is a loud silence about social class in U.S. public schools. The silence was deafening on the first day of the course I recently taught — a course in which teachers look closely at how education in the United States is deeply entangled with social class. In this course, students look closely on their own memories of school as we learn how social class affects access to opportunity, to a sense that one has the right to dream limitless dreams, to the right to feel pride in one’s family and community. Students from poor and working-class homes tell me... Read More

‘Tis the Season When the Poor are Freezin’

Lack of enough opportunity, social inequality, and exploitation are the main factors in capitalist America that cause poverty, but an often overlooked contributor are the “ghetto taxes” and abusive social policies that go hand in glove with lack of incomes that keeps people poor. Ghetto taxes are the extra fees, rates, and miscellaneous surcharges that the poor as a class are forced to pay for the same basic goods and services that the middle and upper classes get for less – a lot less. One example is life-sustaining utilities: natural gas and electric. The rates you’re charged for utilities are... Read More