The Difference Between Racism and Classism


In talking about white privilege and racial slurs, Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey talks about the historical context of words like “cracker”, “redneck” and “white trash”.

 

Her point may seem obvious to some, but it is an important message to spread as for many it is not. Racism and classism are often jumbled together, and it is important to unpack the two into separate categories, while at the same time acknowledging that they can and do intersect. White privilege exists, as does Wealth privilege, but just because all white people don’t have both doesn’t negate the existence of their privilege, and just because some people of color are wealthy doesn’t mean that their race is obliterated in the eyes of everyone they encounter in their lives.

As she says in the video you can change your class but you can’t change your race, and the fact that it is slightly easier for white people to change their class in society is at the heart of how poor white people have white privilege, usually without even realizing it.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    you can change your class

    Bullshit. You can change your wealth, sure. Anyone who tells you that white people can change their class is clearly trying to pull the wool over your eyes – don’t fall for it.

    Quite apart from anything else, there is an enormous body of classic literature* predicated entirely on the MASSIVE resistance the upper classes have, and the obstacles they emplace, against anyone trying to join their ranks who is not PLU. Even the existence of the phrase “PLU” should be enough of a clue that class is not something you can blithely alter with the stroke of a pen.

    And if you think it is – you have class privilege, and you should fucking check it.
    ——————–
    *Identifying examples is left as an exercise for the reader.

  2. Dunc says

    You can change your wealth, sure.

    In the US, they’re largely the same thing. It’s very important to remember that the British class system is not how class works everywhere else.

    Even here in the UK though, you can change your class to some extent… Yes, it’s very difficult to break through the barriers into the upper or upper-middle classes (at least in a single generation), but there is rather more mobility lower down.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    If you mean “wealth”, just say “wealth”.

    If your so-called “class” system is based solely on how much money you have, then the good news is you don’t have a class system. You thus (paradoxically) have class privilege , because you’re not “lower class” (unless you come to the UK…) and are clearly too oblivious even to understand what it means. Also, a functional class system is not by any means unique to the UK – ask any Dalit.

  4. Dunc says

    PLU = “People Like Us”. It’s a term used by upper-middle and upper class people in the UK to distinguish people who are genuinely members of those classes (went to the right schools, attend the right social functions, know which fork to use for which course at dinner and which direction to pass the port in) from nouveau-riche pretenders.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I remember having a prof once in grad school who’d been to all the best schools in England and received a Ph.D., but was stuck with an unshakable Yorkshire accent. She said that people treated her badly for her entire professional life because of it. She was surprised and delighted to discover that most of us Americans were completely unable to distinguish that she didn’t have the “proper” BBC tones, and treated her like royalty because all British accents sound alike to us.

  6. cartomancer says

    The extent to which the British (or, more accurately, the English) class system is porous is an interesting question. It has been said already that there is a much more obvious divide between the private school educated wealthy elite and the regular middle class than there is between the working class and the middle class. This is very true, but even that boundary is porous and always has been. The fact that so many people with a stake in lording it over others make so much effort to police the boundaries shows that the boundaries are more easily crossed than many would like.

    It is also the case that it is much easier to pass as a higher class than you are to people below you in the hierarchy, or a lower class to those above you, than it is to pass as a lower class among those below you or a higher class among those above you. A provincial GP, for instance, will almost certainly be lumped in with the toffs and the bosses by the average steel worker or shopkeeper, but would find it difficult to present herself as a part of the same social group as City stockbrokers or Old Etonian trust fund wankers (often the same thing).

    Though there are plenty of people who occupy an uneasy position in the hierarchy, and don’t find that the really fit in anywhere. I kind of find myself in that category, having come at one generation’s remove from a very working-class family, gone to a very good rural state school with mostly lower-middle class friends, spent a lot of time at university surrounded by comfortably middle-class and public-school upper-middle class people and being involved in teaching a subject that has been all but conceded to the public school elite in the UK (Classics).

    To be honest I think it’s harder to find people who are entirely comfortable in their place in the class system now than people who are not. Even those who enjoy the greatest privilege at the very top are often anxious about their status, and many see it as an embarassing pretention and an anachronism. The rarefied world of the elite is riven by a sense that theirs is a false, contrived and inauthentic existence when compared with the lives of the majority, and it riles a lot of them mightily when you needle at this sensitive spot.

  7. says

    Just because the UK decided that the world around them doesn’t count doesn’t mean that it’s true.
    Yes, in other countries “class” is a much softer barrier than in others. If that weren’t the case the middle classes wouldn’t fight tooth and nail against the lower classes to keep them down.
    Me, I’m not working class despite the fact that I come from pure bred working class stock and despite the fact that many people who are working class earn more than me.
    Part of this is Bourdieu’s “social capital”, part of it is that in Germany teachers are traditionally among the socially important people, unlike in many Anglophone countries.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    You’ve (perhaps inadvertently) revealed a truth there: why classism is worse than racism.

    At least racism has the integrity to say “You’re worse than us because of a thing you have no power to change”.

    Classism – and especially in its not-a-proper-class-system American form – is worse, because it dangles the pernicious fiction of mobility. It lies to its victims, saying “you’re scum… and it’s your fault. And you could do something about it, and if you just did the right things, we’d let you in.”

    A nice clear example is the scene in “Silence of the Lambs” where clearly-upper-class Lecter mocks working-class-but-trying-to-hide-it Starling? “A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed: pure West Virginia. What is your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp?”

    “You can change your class” is pernicious bullshit put about by people in higher classes (people of all colours) to keep the proles down.

  9. snuffcurry says

    She was surprised and delighted to discover that most of us Americans were completely unable to distinguish that she didn’t have the “proper” BBC tones, and treated her like royalty because all British accents sound alike to us.

    Hmm, I don’t think that’s the reason, actually — although it’s certainly the case for some non-native English speakers and non-Anglophones, depending on their native language(s) and whether their ears are attuned to detect such differences. Most Anglophones, fluent or otherwise, can distinguish varieties of Romance languages (rioplatense and mexicano Spanish come to mind) they more frequently encounter, for example.

    British dialects are coded regionally and by class, which is not generally the case in the US, where such differences are comparatively younger, softer, entrenched less deeply and therefore more fluid, and geographically are quite wider (it often appears that every other stone’s throw in England, a far smaller and less populated place, bonks the noggin of another dialect).

    US Americans — reared to believe they are a classless meritocracy, priding themselves for their perceived lack of snootiness, feigning always some form of the common touch, and, like Little Englanders, tending towards the parochial, utterly incurious, if not hostile, to the greater world outside their street — are awash in many of their own intricate, if possibly less ancient prejudices and, not unpredictably, simply fail to recognize and uphold those that are foreign to them. Geordies don’t overly amuse Americans born-and-bred and they don’t quite know what broad satire of estuary is supposed to be poking fun at, but neither do they mock-wince at Cardiffians or find D4 nauseatingly smug. They might not be able to spot the Brummie in a sea of Mancunians, but they respond well to RP and probably regard it as “high class.” (There’s also the curious case of US Anglophilia compared to members of the former commonwealth, more knowledgeable and therefore more wary of Britishers and less readily charmed by them.)

  10. says

    You’ve (perhaps inadvertently) revealed a truth there: why classism is worse than racism.

    That’S “not even wrong” territory.

    Classism – and especially in its not-a-proper-class-system American form – is worse, because it dangles the pernicious fiction of mobility. It lies to its victims, saying “you’re scum… and it’s your fault. And you could do something about it, and if you just did the right things, we’d let you in.”

    Because that’s nothing a black person has ever heard. Or a woman. Damn, it’s just us making all the wrong life choices and playing too much with the kids instead of being competitive.
    Also, social mobility, even though limited, is a fact. It is something that can be helped or hindered by society. If it weren’t a fact I wouldn’t be middle class and there would be no middle class black people at all.
    Also, a white man in a tailor made suit will get a lot of race, gender and class privilege and there’s no clothing a black woman can ever put on to match that.

  11. says

    “You can change your class” is pernicious bullshit put about by people in higher classes (people of all colours) to keep the proles down.

    I love (sarcasm) how your ‘nice clear example” seems to be between two extremes – poverty and Trump-like riches. And that it is virtually impossible to go from one to the other is your “evidence” that this is impossible. Well, guess what? Those aren’t the only two classes. There are in betweens. I’ve lived them. Grew up a poor farm boy. Now I’m an engineer making more than the median income. That’s a class change. I’ve also interacted with poorer people in the small city I now live in. Guess what else? The poorer people dress differently and talk differently than my fellow engineering coworkers. There is a class difference here. It’s observable. I’ve changed classes; I’m living proof. Yeah, sure, I’ll never be Donald Trump rich. So what? That would seem to miss the point.

    Also, weren’t you on Caine’s blog making remarks about how racists probably don’t even believe in evolution? And, yet, here you are, making a classic anti-evolutionist argument of micro vs. macro evolution. Macro evolution doesn’t happen, so (Darwinian) evolution is false, right? Oh, excuse me, your argument is macro class change doesn’t exist; therefore people can’t change class! Yeah…no one, not even you, should buy your bogus argument.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    @Gilliel, 14:
    >>[classism, unlike racism] dangles the pernicious fiction of mobility
    >(sarcastically)that’s nothing a black person has ever heard

    I am unaware of any racist who seriously tells black people they can become white. Citation, please?

    a white man in a tailor made suit will get a lot of race, gender and class privilege

    A white man in a tailor made suit already has enough wealth privilege that he doesn’t need the rest. The fact you appear not to realise what a proper tailor made suit costs makes me suspect your claim to be middle class.

    @Leo Buzalsky, 15:

    I love (sarcasm) how your ‘nice clear example” seems to be between two extremes – poverty and Trump-like riches

    If you’re going to criticise my example, it would help if you’d ever seen the film (or if you have seen it, it would help if you remembered or understood it). For the sake of people who haven’t, the two characters in question are a reasonably smartly (if somewhat cheaply) dressed and clearly-not-in-poverty FBI agent played by Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins as the clearly upper class forensic psychiatrist and blindingly-obviously-never-a-billionaire Hannibal Lecter. So your “extremes” of “poverty” and “Trump-like riches” are either from your own imagination or another film entirely.

    Grew up a poor farm boy. Now I’m an engineer making more than the median income. That’s a class change.

    No dear boy that’s a wealth change. The fact you’ve not changed classes is obvious.

    • Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

      sonofrojblake ,

      No dear boy that’s a wealth change. The fact you’ve not changed classes is obvious.

      Well, that was insulting.
      My lord, sir, if I may note with the greatest respect.

  13. says

    I am unaware of any racist who seriously tells black people they can become white. Citation, please?

    It is funny how you omitted the second part of what I’ve quoted. The part where people who suffer are accused of being lazy or making the wrong “life choices”. Like, you know, black people? Or women? How the wage gap is attributed to women not working hard enough or not asking for raises. Dude, learn reading or honesty.

    A white man in a tailor made suit already has enough wealth privilege that he doesn’t need the rest.

    So, his wealth privilege tops his race and gender? But not his class privilege?

    The fact you appear not to realise what a proper tailor made suit costs makes me suspect your claim to be middle class.

    What the fuck is that about? Are you seriously trying to shame me or simply dismiss my arguments because I apparently don’t conform to your shitty British ideas? Tailor made suits are about 1k, which is something a middle class guy can afford if that’S where his fancy lies. Middle class doesn’t mean being able to have everything, but some things. Some go for the Mercedes, some for the cruise, others for electrical toys and some for sartorial pleasures.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    you omitted the second part of what I’ve quoted

    I didn’t see you quote anything. The later part of what you said referred to life choices, and rather the point of your class is that, like your race or gender, it’s not a life choice, the POINT being that there’s this pernicious fiction that it is. Your wealth unarguably is a life choice, since you can choose to work, or not. There may indeed be limits on how much you can change it because of your race or gender. That much is uncontroversial and I didn’t dispute it. Dude, learn to read.

    wealth privilege tops […] race and gender? But not […] class privilege?

    That’s my point in a nutshell, yes. Well done.

    Tailor made suits are about 1k

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhahahaahahahaha. I bet you meant dollars, too, didn’t you? Bless.

    which is something a middle class guy can afford

    Again with the idea that class has to do with how much money you have. And there I was thinking you’d understood.

    Also – it’s very much not my middle class. If you understood anything at all about this subject, from the embarrassing ranting above you’d recognise a huge working class chip on my shoulder.

    • says

      I didn’t see you quote anything.

      That’s hardly my fault, is it? Because, you know, it’s still there, readable for all. This makes you either the world’s most incompetent internet commenter who isn’t actually illiterate or just an arrogant ass, or dishonest, or probably a combination of the three.

      HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhahahaahahahaha. I bet you meant dollars, too, didn’t you? Bless.

      You’re quite an arrogant asshole, aren’t you? And an idiot on top. No, I mean Euro. And yes, for Germany that’s quite an accurate price. Here’s a UK website and funny thing, I’m still on.

      you’d recognise a huge working class chip on my shoulder.

      I recognise an asshole.

      But here’s an idea: You define class, without referencing income, wealth, education and occupation while accounting for the global experience of the other people involved ij this discussion. You then tell us what your definition is good for.

  15. Dunc says

    This seems appropriate at this point: Social mobility hampered by mutual loathing between classes.

    If you understood anything at all about this subject, from the embarrassing ranting above you’d recognise a huge working class chip on my shoulder.

    Indeed, it is clearly visible from space. 😉

    I’ve always found it ironic that the working classes are, if anything, even more protective of their class boundaries than the upper and upper-middle classes. Sure, the better orders might look down their nose at you over dinner for holding your fork wrong when eating peas, but they won’t beat you up behind the bike sheds for speaking with very slightly different vowel sounds or wearing the wrong brand of trainers.

    God help you if you kind-of sound like you went to public school, but didn’t. I’m a fucking pariah…

    There’s really no point in trying to have a discussion involving the term “middle class” with a Brit on one side and an American (or indeed, anybody else) on the other – the inevitable confusion dooms the attempt from the start. Hell, I’d argue that “middle class” isn’t useful in a British context without a lot of qualification… For example, I’m probably middle to upper lower-middle class – but certainly not lower upper-middle class, although I can pass for it in front of the lower lower-middle class (or lower).

  16. Dunc says

    Here’s a UK website and funny thing, I’m still on.

    Despite all of their marketing blah and repeated use of the word “bespoke”, that looks very suspiciously like MTM rather than proper bespoke tailoring. Their prices and turnaround time would also indicate factory MTM – it’s just not possible to make a properly tailored suit at that price in the UK, due to the amount of handwork involved, and no real tailor’s order book is empty enough to turn it around that quickly, but it’s exactly what you’d expect from factory MTM.

    You also can’t make a properly tailored suit just from measurements, no matter how accurate they are, so anyone offering “a garment that fits perfectly” from “a single consultation” is simply lying and assuming you don’t know any better.

    • says

      Brings me back to my first point: the UK isn’t the world. I know people who wear tailored suits and you can get a decent one for1k € here.
      Though it’s still irrelevant to the argument because even 5k are something a middle class dude can afford if that is where his heart is.

      • sonofrojblake says

        I know people who wear tailored suits and you can get a decent one for1k € here.

        The evidence suggests you don’t know the difference between off-the-peg, made-to-measure and bespoke tailored, which reduces the credibility of your estimation of “decent”.

        No, I mean Euro

        Then why didn’t you say so? Incompetence, blah blah bored now.

        There’s really no point in trying to have a discussion involving the term “middle class” with a Brit on one side and an American (or indeed, anybody else) on the other – the inevitable confusion dooms the attempt from the start.

        I agree. An additional problem is that the non-Brit will almost invariably be stubbornly blind to their privilege.

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