Yesterday I caught the tail end of Talk of the Nation on NPR and they were having a conversation about Race. Specifically, they were trying to figure out, one year into Obama's presidency, if the national conversation about Race had changed. Are we more able to talk about race? Does race really matter? In the year 2030, when America reportedly will be more brown than white, will anyone even remember what racism is/was? If you want to hear the discussion, you can listen to it here.
What I found the most interesting about the conversation, though, was not the debate over whether or not younger Americans are less race conscious than their elders, but rather the discussion of class which only came up at the end of the show. Class is what truly divides us as a people, one of the guests said, yet we don't want to touch that Big White elephant in the room.
And I want to know why?
Why are we so hesitant to admit that class divides us even more than race? Even more, why do we condemn those who try to bring up the "Class card?" If I say that I have nothing in common with the Black underclass except the color of my skin, that I have more in common with a White middle-class suburbanite than a poor Black woman living in the inner city, why am I a race traitor? Or filled with self-hatred or in denial. In the words of Bill Cosby, "Come on people!"
Really, it is our similar class status that brings us together here on the Meltingpot, isn't it? Many of us grew up with common circumstances, had shared experiences at school, going to college, traveling...all of which comes from being in the same economic class, not because our skin tones are all the same.
Now obviously there is a sense of shared culture that is undeniable amongst certain groups. Language, for example, will bind Hispanic people in this country despite class status, but even though Maria in the barrio speaks Spanish, I don't think that makes her a prime candidate to be best friends with Angela who lives in a posh suburb in Seattle. They may share a language, but what the hell are they going to talk about?
I don't think I need to argue the point that class divides us more than race. I think it's obvious (but please correct me if you think I'm wrong.). But what I do want to know is why can't we talk about it? Why isn't it our biggest issue here in the United States like it is in many European countries? I have a couple of theories, one being that it is about power. If Black people, for example, admit that we're not one big monolithic group, that Our Kind of People are not exactly paling around with the Boyz in the Hood, we loose power because we loose numbers. And God forbid if we in the higher classes start criticizing our own, then somehow we're giving The Man permission to do the same. Going back to Bill Cosby, he has been lambasted for taking poor Black people to task recently for their self-annihilating behavior. And he's Bill Cosby!
So for us ethnic folk in the United States, maybe it is a power thing or a shame game. We don't want to bring shame to the lower classes of our own group because then people will just assume we're all like that. It's that annoying "judge the whole group by the actions of a few theory." (Yuck!) Of course White people don't have that problem because poor White people don't exist. I'm kidding of course, but poor White people never seem to have a face and since White people are still in the majority in this country, somehow we don't assume that when we witness a poor White person behaving badly, that all White people act the same way.
So, whew, I am clearly on a rampage here today. Thank God it's Friday. So, let me know, why do you think the national conversation about class is so quiet? Would it make a difference in public policy and/or daily life if we publicly admitted that we have class issues in this country? And really, I don't advocate for getting rid of classism, it's just another -ism that is part of the human condition, but if we admitted that there were class differences that divide us, wouldn't we just run things a little differently? Maybe better? With better results? I'm just saying...Tell me what you think.
ONE MORE THING--One Less Racist in Public Office
Keith Bardwell, the justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, has resigned. But he's still being sued by the couple. For an update, you can read this article. Just thought you should know.