The April 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Murder of Mary Katherine King

Eyes Wide Open

California Lifts Food Stamp Ban

The Ordeal of Ramona Choyce

Republicans Shred Disabled Housing

Art and Activism of Jos Sances

The Paintings of Jos Sances

Gambling with Social Security

Billionaires Grow Richer, Poverty Worsens

Existence Itself Is Banned for the Homeless Poor

Bush Policy Errs on Chronic Homelessness

Sankofa House: A Rainbow for Homeless Women

Student Summit Against Hunger

A Lifetime at the Bus Stop

Working for Transit Justice

Poor Leonard's Almanack

BOSS Community Organizing

The Anguish of Classism





May 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

The Anguish Caused by Classism

It is painful to be on the receiving end of class-based disdain and mistreatment

by Jack Bragen

Classism, the prejudice against people from a lower economic class, might be thought of by most people as an inconsequential form of bigotry -- one that is not comparable to anti-Semitism, racism, or gay bashing. But when you are on the receiving end of classist disdain and mistreatment, it is just as painful as when, on the other side of town, someone is using the word "Jew" as an insult.

I went to a writer's class and discovered that I was instantaneously being judged as a horrible and illiterate person by those I had never before met, who had never seen my writing, nor spoken to me, nor asked my name. The fellow writers in this class were skeptical that I belonged in the class or that I had ever before written. Whenever I dared voice an opinion, I was verbally torn apart by classmates.

I realized they were judging me by my appearance. I was surprised. Apparently, I don't look like a writer. What is a writer supposed to look like? I don't know, but apparently I don't look like one.

In a "New Age liberal" church here in the Bay Area, one that prides itself on its inclusiveness, I have been subtly and not-so-subtly excluded. Here again, I am apparently being judged by my cover. I do not mention the church by name since I think there is still a chance of going back.

When an individual is forced to survive among those persons that society labels "low class," e.g., the mentally ill, people who use illegal drugs, people with HIV, rough people, it doesn't leave the person unchanged. While the individual's sentiments may remain lofty and their intellect sharp, they are forced to develop around them a thick aura of energy that protects them from threats and makes them blend in to the environment to which they are adapted.

How the individual dresses and grooms and carries their posture will be different from those in the "upper class." When liberal, New Age, politically correct, upper-middle-class suburbanites see this aura on a person, or when a group of aspiring authors who fancy themselves intellectuals see this, they believe they are dealing with a San Quentin escapee who for some unknown reason wants to harass them. They deal with the person accordingly.

Under the cloud of this prejudice and misjudgment, one almost wants to say, "I am not the criminal you think I am."

We then have an intellectual person with lofty aspirations who, wherever he goes, is dealt with as an illiterate truck driver at best. The chameleon-like adaptation to harsh conditions is not something one can just shower away.

We discover that no group of people is immune to some form of bigotry toward people they perceive as different from themselves.

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