Friday, May 8, 2009

Class or Race? Both Are Problems

Larry James, Central Dallas Ministries' President and CEO, will probably also reference author bell hooks, in his blog sometime soon. If so, he'll join my other colleague, Janet Morrison, as I think we were all similarly impacted by our review of her book, Where We Stand Class Matters, in our monthly Urban Engagement Book Club.

To be honest, I've never been fully persuaded that class trumps race when it comes to social inequality in America. But I cannot be dismissive of its role in the dominant culture. Ms. hooks work is important and helps drive home the fact that we ignore the issue of class to our peril.

It is one explanation for the political phenomenon in America where people who make $35,000 a year fight vigorously for the interests of people who make $35 million!

Quotes from the book that peaked my interest?

"Everywhere we turn in our daily lives in this nation we are confronted with the widening gap between rich and poor..Yet there is no organized class struggle, no daily in-your-face critique of capitalistic greed that stimulates thought an action - critique, reform, and revolution. As a nation we have become passive, refusing to act responsibly toward the more than thirty-eight million citizens who live in poverty here and the working masses who labor long and hard but still have difficulty making ends meet. The rich are are getting richer. And the poor are falling by the wayside. At times it seems no one cares. Citizens in the middle who live comfortable lives, luxurious lives in ration to the rest of the world, often fear that challenging classism will be their downfall, that simply by expressing concern for the poor they will end up like them, lacking the basic necessities of life. Defensively, they turn their backs on the poor and look to the rich for answers, convinced that the good life can exist only when there is material affluence."

Also...

"The notion that everyone can be wealthy ha supplanted the idea of the United States as a classless society. Indeed, the fantasy that cuts across class is the dream of a world where everyone can be wanton and wasteful as they consume the world's riches."

And finally...

"I can give money. But rarely is money enough. I cannot give instant psychological makeovers. The imprints of a consumer capitalist socialization that teaches us all to spend much and value little, to get as much as we can and give as little as possible, (its, known as scamming), cannot be erased at will. It should be g=evident that we cannot change class oppression and exploitation without changing the way everyone thinks about getting and giving. Class is much more than money."

The issue of class is political. It is social. It is ethical. It is economic. It is spiritual.

The issue of class impacts the way we see and engage one another. It shoots through race, gender, religious dogma and political ideology. It goes to the heart of who we will be as citizens of the world, and how we see ourselves in the world.

To do something about it, we'll have to admit that we've been viewing ourselves and others through dirty and defective lenses...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wish I could have been there...sounds like it was really expanding.

I lieu of that here's a recent clip I found that combined the genius of Dr. Bill Turner and bell hooks celebrating their places of origins from rural areas.

Hope it informs and warms you.

Gerald Britt said...

It was a very engaging afternoon!

I'd love to see the clip but you forgot to post the link!

Anonymous said...

Sorry..operator error

YouTube clip
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEPEtcqPOyE

bell hooks and Dr. Bill Turner Hold Discussion to Celebrate "Appalachian Heritage