PEOPLE IN CLASS HOUSES
As a member of the working class, I make less money than I did in the 1970s. Back then I also had medical and dental coverage, vacation pay and sick leave. There was a union for warehouse men, and we shipped merchandise made in Amer ica. In response to Walter Mosley’s “Show Me the Money” [Dec. 18] one must look as far back as James Madison and as near as our current plutocratic government. Our country was founded on the Madisonian principle that the people are too dangerous to wield power. To keep order the rich minority must keep the working-poor majority fragmented and separated from decision-making. As long as there is an excess of the poor, wages will be driven lower, and people of all colors will fight among themselves, not against the system.
I come from an impoverished Irish family and my dad used to talk about the “race riots” of the 1960s and say, “See? That’s what we all need to be doing in this country. Maybe then people would wake up and shake up–things might change.” Like many, he ended up defeated, losing his passion in drink.
Most people don’t understand poverty. They think (like Reagan) people choose it, or it’s their own fault–they deserve to be in the boat they’re in. I’m grateful for Mosley’s voice in The Nation, a trustworthy source of information I can afford. Thanks for the dignity and respect.
Robert S. Boynton correctly notes one fallacy at the heart of Walter Benn Michaels’s The Trouble With Diversity: Race does matter, and it cannot and should not be replaced with class [“The Plot Against Equality,” Dec. 25]. Yet, as Walter Mosley wrote here just a week earlier, class also matters. Boynton dismisses scholars who study working-class culture as “sentimental” about poverty; but “class” does not equal “poverty.”
As Mosley points out, most Americans are working-class, and–as scholars like Jack Metzgar, Nan Enstad, Annette Lareau, Robin Kelley and others have shown–working-class culture is not defined by failure and lack. As we have argued in New Working-Class Studies, we need to take class as seriously as other social categories. Class matters–as do race, gender, sexuality and other categories–but none should be privileged over the others. Nor should any be erased.