Just recently I attended a Class Action workshop. This was my first workshop ever dealing on the issues of classism. Heading into it, I didn’t know what to expect. I had an open mind and was willing to work with others I hadn’t met. It was definitely a big step to go outside my comfort zone and really engage. I learned a very valuable lesson that we all overlook at times, and that is to take the stereotypes out of class before you can get a deeper understanding of it.
When the workshop began, we went around and introduced ourselves and mentioned one identity that we were very proud of. I mentioned that I was very proud to be a first -generation student, the first in my family to graduate from college. It meant a lot to me that I would mention that, because growing up I always felt that I had to make my parents proud and always do good when it comes to education.
I didn’t know that I was part of the ‘lower-middle class’. When I learned which class caucus my parents’ work and education placed me in, I was proud of it. In the lower-middle class, I’m up against the desire to break away, avoiding bad elements, and so much more. However, In spite of that, I’m proud to say that I am part of the working class and have worked hard to get myself to where I am now. Thinking back to when I was 12 years old, I remember my parents working full time jobs and our family living in a two family household. For us everything hasn’t been easy, but my parents’ hard work planted that seed of a better future for me.
I realized when we think of class, we usually think about whether someone is poor or rich. However, there’s more that comes in between those two extremes. It seems like we can’t see the importance of the ones in between because of stereotypes. I have noticed that when we think of people who are poor, we mostly portray it with African Americans, people that had no choice but to be at that poverty level. Or when we think of the rich, we portray it with whites, people that didn’t have to work their way to the top. The worksop taught me that within in each class, there are all races and types of people. Whether a person is poor and very smart , or someone who is rich but doesn’t seem to be because of their ethnic background, the society we all live in can’t completely define who we are. Within my group, the lower middle class, I have seen all backgrounds and ages.
We all have our strengths, and we all have been held back by our limitations. But learning to take the stereotypes out makes understanding the different parts of classism much easier. We can get more personal with each other, as well as scrape away boundaries that will hold us back from seeing the broader view of our society.