What’s the most classist comment you ever heard?

At the 2013 White Privilege Conference, Class Action circulated a survey that included the question “What’s the most classist comment you’ve ever heard?” We got some doozies!

One word stood out –Trash”:
White trash (reported by 5 people); Are you redneck or white trash?; That’s so white trash; You’re trash; Poor white trash.  (Can we all agree that no human being is “trash”?)

Other single words or phrases: That was so ghetto!; Bougie; “They”; Low life; “Those people”; No class; Low class; Classy; Jokes about something being “low class” or referring to working class white people as “trash” or “rednecks.”

Stereotypes targeted at the hearer:

  • All you people know how to do is open your legs and use the system.
  • Can you afford that?
  • Oh, you are different from most blacks.
  • You really do come from the wrong side of the tracks!
  • Assuming because I’m native we get lots of money from casinos, getting “rich off government”
  • You are too far gone to catch up.
  • I was raking leafs in the front of my house that I will own in 27 years. : ) A white man and his wife walk by and he says to me ” job security.”
  • A family we were working with on rehabbing a house told their daughter to work hard so you don’t have to be a secretary when you get out of school. These were good friends who had college degrees, working as teachers.  My partner and I have no 4 year degrees.  He is a skilled carpenter and I am an office worker.
  • That restaurant/clothing store is amazing but so expensive. Have your parents take you there when they come into town. [Said by a college friend who assumed that my parents could afford such things when, in reality, I paid when we went to dinner.]

Stereotypes about working-class and poor people not in the conversation:

  • Women who ‘really’ care about their children stay at home with them and don’t work.
  • I don’t want you playing basketball at the community center because of the low-income kids who play there.
  • When shopping with my dad as a teenager, if he changed his mind on an item he’d put it down anywhere in the store and joke that he was giving the employees a reason to earn their keep — like they had no other duties than to clean up after shoppers thoughtful enough to leave them messes.
  • I judge applicants (to live in a share house) by their job, and their spelling and grammar, I don’t want to live with a hair dresser – no offense but I need to choose somehow.
  • It’s easier to love a rich man than a poor man.
  • “Creekers” – people in West Virginia who love in the hollers or the more underdeveloped neighborhoods near streams. Very common in my high school.

Misinformation about how US society works:

  • People are poor because they choose to be.
  • All those ignorant rednecks are why we can’t pass progressive reforms in this country.
  • The US is a classless society.

How can we respond when we hear a classist comment?
• For stories of how people have responded, see the Classism in Everyday Life section of the Classism Exposed blog.

Class Action offers workshops on responding to verbal classism and other oppressive comments and promoting respectful communication. If you’d like to book at workshop at your organization, please email us at info@classism.org.

Fri workshop Betsy gesturing

Betsy’s workshop on reducing organizational classism at the White Privilege Conference