Class and Race

To be concerned about class does not mean to
ignore the realities of race, it means to expand our understanding that
exclusion occurs through strong, subtle, systemic practices and beliefs that
shut out people who are not priviliged by resources, knowledge or
connection.

I wrote about class a couple of days ago. I said I don’t talk about it much anymore because it’s just something you can’t talk about in the circles in which I travel. That’s still true.

I was in a training event on racism recently. I mentioned class. I wish I hadn’t. It doesn’t compute in a conversation like this.

But here’s my position. To be concerned about class does not mean that I ignore the realities of race. It means that I contend that exclusion and oppression occur through strong, subtle and systemic practices and beliefs that shut out people who are not privileged by position, connection, knowledge or resources.

To be shut out is to be shut out. To lack food for your family is to be hungry. To lack opportunity is to be mired in the same economic position day-after-day. To have an inferior public school is to have an inferior public school. Poor people–Latinos, whites, African-American, Native Americans–all experience this. Of course it’s an expression of ethnic discrimination. It’s also discrimination based on class.

To identify this is not to deny the obvious. Race matters. Racism is real and it’s the basis for injustice and discrimination today in ways that are sophisticated and subtle. But in this society we also punish people just for being poor, no matter what their race.

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