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Many White Middle Class Refuse To Acknowledge Classism

October 15, 2008
Because it scares the hell out of them.Many white middle class members will acknowledge racism and classism when it involves members of other socially constructed races outside of white, but will suddenly become allergic to the concept of classism when no Other race is mentioned and the assumption is that all players are white. For instance, how my previous post exposed how comfortable The Perfect Professor (and her followers) were with white-on-white sexism and classism. It was amusing to them. As I stated in the previous post:

If classism is employed white-on-white, you can best believe racism is lurking under the surface somewhere. There is no way someone can convince me that if a privileged white person abuses someone in/of their own race that they would not abuse or exploit someone who is systematically set up at a disadvantage.

Here is an example of white-on-white classism fueled by sexism:

“Dear female resident of the Methamphetamine Mile Mobile Homes:”

Here is an example of white-on-other than white classism fueled by racism/sexism.

“Dear female resident of the Crack Infested Projects:”

In case you are wondering, in both examples the second the word female is introduced, the sexism begins. What is the significance in identifying the person’s gender/sex? The purpose is to judge that she is a bad woman, (or a bad mother as in the Hambeast from Hell case). Next, the classism/racist code follows. Combined with the identification of sex/gender (socially assigned), the signifying noun-adjective and signifying object noun hip the reader/listener to what race and class is the intended target. In the first example, the target is a poor white woman. In the second example, the target is a poor woman of colour (in most cases, black). I would have never assigned the drug crack specifically to any race, because I’ve known (my personal experience, unlike taking my cues from the media) a mixture of crack addicts. However, right here on this blog, a while back, maybe seven or eight months ago, a few people told me that crack invoked the image of blacks when used as an encoded insult, so I will go with that. Still, I would not use crack to mean black, but hey, one must use the semiotics of one’s audience if trying to get a certain point across. The Perfect Professor winks code at her audience by using “Methamphetamine” and “Mobile Homes.” Methamphetamine=white, Mobile Homes=Poor Whites. To give the wink for a racist meaning the code used may be, Crack=black, Projects=Poor Blacks.

White middle class Americans (especially so-called progressive white middle class Americans) can freely and sympathetically discuss other than white people when the topic is about classism and racism because the system allows them a distance, A detached indifference, or if they do care somewhat a detached caring, a coming and going, —let’s not think about it tonight type of caring, “It is those people that are trapped, not me. I’m safe. As a member of the white middle class, I can still believe in the system of meritocracy, thus become a member of the rich one day. I just need to work harder, do better to achieve more.” In addition to maintaining a distance, they automatically assume the role of benevolent do-gooder, hence setting him/herself up in the superior position. Owning the superior position gives the white middle class the freedom to perpetuate the system. In other words, they keep the system going as is. Any attention the white middle class pays to the lower classes is interpreted by them as benevolent (a favour), even if that attention is cruel and unproductive. “I want The Hambeast from Hell to do better for her children. That is all.”

If called out on their classism, many members of the white middle class will direct your attention toward the rich, thus feigning innocence for their part. According to them, they have no choice. They have to perpetuate the system and structure in order to maintain their lifestyle, their credit lines, and their ideology. Yet, that same imaginary gun that is held to their heads is not held to the heads of the poor. According to the white middle class, the poor are only poor because they choose to be poor, –they lack impulse control unlike they who buy on credit. Instead, they prefer, insist that you focus on the rich. Diverting the attention to the rich allows the white middle class to rationalise their failure to act toward changing the situation. “We have to collude, but you don’t.” (If you can even get them to admit to the colluding at all.)
As I stated before, and it will be a theme that I plan to develop, if white people cannot refrain from sorting, viewing, and treating other white people into inferior categories such as white trash, hillbillies, rednecks, poor white trash, etc they will never realistically and productively deal with racism in a way that will lead to a dismantling. The plight of other than white middle class people is secondary business (if ever a concern at all) to most of the white middle class. The white middle class is more interested in making sure they remain in the structurally superior position than they are in working toward removing a systematic and structural disadvantage for others. This is the reason the white middle class polices other whites that are making them look bad. If “white trash” did not jeopardize the white middle class’s image, they would not even bother recognising their existence. But how it stands, there is a possibility for other than white races to judge collective white (its face being the white middle class) by the actions of “white trash.” Holding on to the superior position is necessary to the white middle class so that they can claim (if not out loud, to themselves) their placement is due to their own merits (hence the reason for policing out the trash) and not due to an unearned privilege/advantage. Their policing is to shame the undesirable whites into compliance. This compliance is necessary to ensure the survival of the superior position.
*of course there are always individuals who happen to be white and middle class that this made not apply to, however, I am speaking collectively.
15 Comments
  1. Professor Zero permalink
    October 17, 2008 8:31 am

    I like this post and I also got today an e-mail that was sent as funny but which had these characteristics. Fortunately one of the other recipients noticed this too and commented / explained it, so I did not have to spend gray matter on it … otherwise I would have had to, because it would have bothered me not to have a response articulated.

  2. Jennifer Cascadia Emphatic permalink
    October 20, 2008 11:03 pm

    As I’ve been pointing out in some of my for-publication writing, the following is oh-so true!:

    “Owning the superior position gives the white middle class the freedom to perpetuate the system.”

    Actually, as I’ve written about, abusing someone who is perceived as a white colonial is felt to be a no-lose situation by these losers. Not only can they show themselves to be “above racism” in this manner (much as the latent homosexual is “above homosexuality” when they murder a gay person), but they can also eliminate someone from the economic pool of competition by virtue of such abuse. They’ve got to be loving it!

  3. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    October 21, 2008 12:16 am

    If I’m reading you right, then, I know, right! It’s like one big racist witch-hunt brought on by the so called anti-racists when all they are really doing is nudging for a higher position, a higher point value, while the actual victims of their so-called cause is pushed to the wayside. Actually, I have been trying to formulate my next thoughts on this impromptu series, and that being how the “white trash” or the people who are actually mating, living, loving and promoting an equal society with people of colour are dismissed by the white middle class. Silenced. Why is this? In my opinion, it is because they (the “white trash” or in other words, the people actually living the so-called goal) are the real players and not just the theoretical players. The real players’ actions reveal how the white middle class is just talk when it comes to diversity, unification, dismantling the system, etc. Thus, the white middle class must discredit these “white trash” because they are potentially messing up the white middle class’s game (power position).

  4. Jennifer Cascadia Emphatic permalink
    October 21, 2008 3:03 am

    Yes, precisely. I have never seen an Australian citizen who was worried about the politically incorrect status of where I come from being anywhere near as worried about the plight of Aboriginals in Australia. They simply are not. From their point of view, they clean their slate by casting out their own racism into me — like Jesus casting out the devils into the pigs.

  5. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    October 21, 2008 6:08 am

    Well that goes to your eliminating competition theory, because the pigs supposedly hurled themselves off a cliff. Less mouths to compete for the scraps.

  6. Jennifer Cascadia Emphatic permalink
    October 22, 2008 9:32 am

    yes. instead I went off to one side and gathered my resources.

  7. naginata1 permalink
    April 6, 2009 6:54 am

    “Remember the poor would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor… that is why they will follow us.” 1776 the musical

    It is really the working class or impoverished that is the most in love with the system, the most conservative, and the most willing to go along with it all. The poorer you are, the more you worship the male god and sing the old hymns.

    The middle class is a rather recent innovation. Most societies have never achieved it, and it’s rare on the historical stage.

    The poor, will always be with us, no surprise there. It’s just the way it is. Unless something really different happens, and I don’t see this soon on any feminist blogs nearest you.

  8. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink*
    April 6, 2009 3:50 pm

    It is really the working class or impoverished that is the most in love with the system, the most conservative, and the most willing to go along with it all. The poorer you are, the more you worship the male god and sing the old hymns.

    Do you have statistics for such an assertion, no an accusation? And if you did, would they be from a source that did not have a motive to prove just what they wanted to prove? Satsuma, poor bashing will not be tolerated on this blog as long as I’m alive.

  9. naginata1 permalink
    April 6, 2009 10:41 pm

    You have to look globally for why people are so satisfied with the status quo. 1000 years of Czarist rule in Russia, no major revolutions in the U.S. Sometimes I think countries created a middle class to simply provide a buffer, just as white supremacists used poor whites as a buffer against poor blacks. Divide and conquer the usual story. It’s not poor bashing to comment on why people are satisfied with a status quo at any given time or place, it’s simply a fact that people pretty much go along with authority, whether they are wealthy or poor.

    Every now and then a revolution occurs, but women aren’t the beneficiary of these revolutions. Labor unions excluded black workers in the early U.S. labor movement, and the labor activists were working class white men doing the excluding. Racism kept people divided, and men excluded working class women from labor unions as well.

    MLK and company were not working class blacks, they were middle class, and the American revolution was a revolution started by elites, really only about 1/3 of the entire population at that time. Survival drains the energy of people, and causes people to become MORE not less conservative.

    And then there is the peculiarity of how some people get out of poverty and then have no patience for the poor. Andrew Carnegie, or even many immigrants you meet who make the journey across the ocean.
    Nobody, in my opinion really knows much about other groups they are not in. And that’s the long of it all.

  10. April 6, 2009 10:55 pm

    naginata,

    I have to take issue with your insistence that poor people are MORE wedded to the status quo than rich people. We are all wedded to the status quo for different reasons, none of which are noble.

    Secondly, if you’re going to use black Americans and our Civil Rights Movement to back your arguments, you should know what you’re talking about. MLK is NOT the epitome of radicalism, so far as the movement for black empowerment is concerned. His middle-class background is OBVIOUS in his integrational stance on black civil rights.

    While poor people may be disproportionately overburdened with survival, those poor people who do rise to political positions take much more radical stances than middle-class, upward-identifying folks like MLK. Malcolm X, for example, was from the dregs of society, and it is his philosophy toward black liberation which was most revolutionary, despite the fact that white society was more inclined to indulge the watered-down vision of integration that MLK had.

    MLK is no role model of mine. So, I wouldn’t be so quick to point to him as some sort of positive example of what’s come out of the middle class, if I were you.

    Also, there’s nothing bewildering about the fact that people who escape poverty proceed to bash the poor. Socially sanctioned disdain for the poor is one of the main perks of being rich in patriarchy.

    Margie

  11. naginata1 permalink
    April 6, 2009 11:28 pm

    I did not say that MLK was a radical, although many southern whites at the time did think this about him. Each group protects its own turf and that is a given. I think we all are better off to share “turf” personally. What I was saying is that revolutionaries are not class based necessarily, they can be, but not always. FDR was hated by his social class of the time, and he was a very strong opponent of the excesses of the financial system when he came into office. Would he have learned this had he not gotten polio? I think polio was a transformative experience for him…the perfect storm that created a person able to take action.

    Each movement I think has its nuances Margie. For example, lesbian feminists were both very radical if they were wealthy and very radical if they were poor. To come out of the closet was once such a huge risk, that straight people would fire ANY lesbian for doing so. There was much more of a mixed class community in lesbian worlds than in straight worlds, for example. It’s what I liked about lesbian life. Now, things are changing for the worse, but there was once a golden age .. tr la.

    I’d like to add a little tidbit here… being wedded to a status quo assumes that people were in it to begin with. I can assure you that my life was never status quo, and I was excluded from this possibility completely. Was I less fortunate than a straight woman? Well, actually, I thought straight women had it pretty bad. I was happy I never wasted time with men, happy to not have to deal with heteronormative worlds. Perhaps it made me more wedded to a “feminist” status quo 🙂

    Perhaps what’s interesting about history, is that people feel connection and become “radical” for deeply personal reasons. On the outside they may appear to be poor or middle class or wealthy even, but inwardly they might feel very differently about this. So even class descriptions aren’t exactly an indicator of all that much.

    I’d say there is just as much hatred and envy directed at the rich, as there is hatred against the poor. To me, if you are on the receiving end of the hatred it’s real.

    The more we understand the nuance of this, the more we will actually be able to change things. Martin was hated by whites, he was called a communist, a traitor, unAmerican, a radical, a danger to the nation… that’s how many white people in America saw him. But within a black context, he was moderate compared to Malcolm, but even Malcolm said nothing about the position of women when he traveled to Saudi Arabia. So he was clueless about patriarchy, and fully supported male supremacy in a way that would shock women today. I’d like to think that both men would have changed had they lived, but then men never really do change do they?

    Maybe the fairest thing to say, is that all people are really stuck in whatever world they grew up in. They are wedded to their upbringing, and only change for mysterious reasons. I do notice that people not in survival mode can take more risks at times, but that’s another story.

    Or maybe it is a peculiar dynamic of the peasants who follow the rulers, and both seeming to need the other. That’s why peasant rebellions are rare, or why the dark ages lasted almost 1000 years. It is continuity that is the norm, change unusual for all classes.

  12. naginata1 permalink
    April 6, 2009 11:34 pm

    P.S. I’ve never much understood why some groups would be mad at other groups over their possessions to begin with. What angered me was not whether someone was rich and had everything, what angered me is that straight people thought they were superior and entitled to all social rituals and praise. I didn’t care if people had 20 cars or no cars, but I did care if someone yelled “dyke” out a car window at me.

    Every straight person has this sense of entitlement whether they admit it or not, just as ever person not in a group has something the others do not. Kind of like the poem “Richard Cory”– not all it appears to be. Someone had that song on another blog… geez cross blogging songs coming at ya… 🙂

  13. naginata1 permalink
    April 7, 2009 12:11 am

    Or maybe oppression is in the eye of the beholder. Otherwise, why would women keep marrying men if they were so awful. I wouldn’t want to live with men, but I’m a lesbian and find men inherently distasteful to be around socially.

    The mystery is consciousness, how people come to consciousness, and I believe it is THE MYSTERY Margie.

  14. April 7, 2009 1:05 am

    naginata,

    I’m having trouble with my internet connection right now, so please don’t take any delays in responding to be positive reactions to your assertions.

    If you honestly believe that poor people’s resentment of their rich oppressors is in ANY WAY like the disdain and scorn rich people have for the poor, you’ll need to find a new place to hang out. That amounts to an accusation of “reverse racism” against nonwhite folks.

    This thread has nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality. Nothing. It is about class. I’m not even sure why you bring it up. There are poor lesbians who hate being called “white trash,” for instance, as much as they hate being called “dykes.” And I’m sure they’d not want you insinuating that they’re just jealous of rich folks’ fancy cars when they take umbrage with being sneered at for their class.

    Enough, naginata, with the poor-bashing. And I don’t want to hear about how it doesn’t sound like poor-bashing to your well-insulated ears, either. I know it doesn’t. I’m asking you to stop it anyway.

  15. Polly Styrene permalink
    April 7, 2009 6:57 am

    “Why would women keep marrying men if they were so awful”. Patriarchal brainwashing maybe?

    “I’ve never much understood why some groups would be mad at other groups over their possessions to begin with”. Because half the world is starving in poverty, while the other half lives off exploiting them?

    People are only ‘satisfied with the status quo’ if they ARE the status quo. Poor people are too poor to do anything about it.

    There is an extent to which oppressed groups, if they have some interests to maintain will accept the status quo. For instance I refrain from causing a fuss at work (so far) because I am afraid of losing my job in a recession. It’s called cultural hegemony, naginata, and it works with patriarchy as well. Women are conned into believing that their interests lie in serving men’s interests, and women who don’t go along with the agenda are punished.

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