Working Class Reflections

Those of Us from Rio Linda by Dwight Lang                                                                      


“Dad seldom trusted anyone with a college degree.  He took great pleasure in using colorful words to describe political and cultural elites who manipulate the nation.  Those words lurk beneath the surface of my middle-class ways.”  


The Cost of Passing by John Rosario-Perez                                             

John Rosario-Perez

“Perpetually conflicted about my social class, I created as wide a berth as possible between my various worlds to hide real and imagined disparities.  Even if I could “pass” in the classroom, I felt that my personal life betrayed me and exposed the ruse.  The evidence my poverty, from my secondhand clothing to tattered and patched furniture, felt malignant.”



The Floors of the Met by Karen Estrella                                                                                         

Karen Estrella

“I can’t tell you the time or month of the year that I took my grandmother to the museum.  I can’t tell you what snack we had with our “bad” coffee that day.  And at the end of her life my abuelita sat in a wheelchair from the stroke that she suffered a few years before, making it hard to remember the way she had bounded up those nine flights of stairs.  But what I remember that day, I see her holding my arm and walking with me through that atrium up the stairs of the Met.  I feel the weight of her arm on my forearm.  I can remember that, and the day that the floors of the museum meant more to me than any painting that hung on the walls.”


Washroom Class Politics by Tim Harris                                                

Tim Harris

“My minimum-wage earnings paid for rent, gas, cigarettes and just enough food to get by.  There was no money for car repairs… I complained about my wages to my boss.  He was clearly annoyed. “What do you need to live?” he asked.  The question took me by surprise… A few years later, as a social theory and political economy major at UMass, I would learn that wages within capitalism are calculated to provide for the bare reproduction of labor power.  This struck me as more or less self-evident.”

Artichokes by N. Jeanne Burns                         N. Jeanne Burns                                       

“I don’t tell Mom about my food escapades because I’m certain she’d be offended at the amount of money we spend on a dinner for two and be worried about how I dressed.  “You wore hose and a slip, I hope,” she’d say, the o in hope drawn out as if there were a u after it.  She never wanted her social class to show and taught me to mimic people I judged to be a higher class than I, as she had.”


Michaelann BewseeHere’s How to Drive the Poor Crazy by Michaelann Bewsee

“I love the work that I’ve done with my hands, the tangible accomplishments of assembling a product or harvesting a crop.  I love the political work thats shaped me– flipping pancakes at a Black Panther Free Breakfast program, writing for a woman’s paper, hitting the streets with flyers that say, We have rights, we matter, our lives are important.”


Red Datsun Security by Karen Spector                                                         

Karen Spector

“In high school, it was about being the first in the family to go to college (instead of going directly to work); in college, it was about finding ways to get to and from work safely (so I could pay for college and the easier life it would lead to); and at this moment in time, though I’m now middle class, it is about making the decisions necessary to provide my oldest child with a college eduation and a car, so he will be more free than I was, so that he will be able to live without bending his will to someone else’s unless he freely chooses to.”