You are on page 1of 7

Ruthann West

Ruthann West
ENGL 1050
Prof. Maenhardt
Essay 2: Reflection
Essay Two: Class
America is full of diversity. We are a country of different races, languages, ethnicities,
and religions. Many of these facets of diversity are connected, and some are independent of one
another. Ethnicity and race are connected, language and ethnicity are connected. Religion is both
connected and independent of these, depending upon who you ask. These diverse conditions help
make America great. There is a place for everyone. We are an object of desire for immigrants,
homosexuals, and virtually anyone looking for freedom of expression; after all, here in the
melting pot, they stand the best chance of being accepted. Right?
Ive recently found this to be an optimistic, and slightly unrealistic, view of todays
America. Five years ago I would have told anyone who asked that here, racism does not really
exist anymore. That gays are accepted and any religion is widely tolerated. Progress is being
made toward the acceptance of differences in many areas, but there is only a place for everyone
if everyone is in their place. A facet of diversity that every country, including America, faces is
that of social class. Rich versus poor. Cultured versus uncultured. Educated versus uneducated.
In one way or another, this class separation has always existed, and faces the same intolerance as
any other social group gap.
Class separation does not only exist as rich versus poor. Often its a perceived
imbalance between two different cultures. It does not even have to be between two regions,

Ruthann West

families or people. Min-Zhan Lu shows an example of social class separation in her essay From
Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle:
Told me that since my father worked for Foreign Imperialists, my father should be
classified as an Imperialist Lackey. The teacher looked nonplussed when I told him that my
father couldnt be an Imperialist Lackey because he was a medical doctor. But I could tell from
the way he took notes on my form that my fathers job had put me in an unfavorable position in
his eyes (150). This is an example of social class segregation, but not necessarily only because
of income. Lu classifies her family as Bourgeoisie, and her school teachers as working class.
As a result of her living essentially in both classes, she ends up with a large amount of internal
struggle she could not reconcile until she was much older.
Social class diversity can be tied to race, but ultimately exists in and outside of it. It
doesnt matter where you live, or what color you are- in every culture there is class separation.
Lu was in China at the time she discovered her strife. Marjane Sartrapi was in Iran when she
discovered that she didnt exist in one class. The modern and avant-garde (365) family did not
accept her naturally religious tendencies. This clash was shown both in herself and in her culture;
she wanted to be a prophet which confused her modern family, and when introduced to the
concept of the veil, her mother helped protest them. The graphic novel The Veil Sartrapi used
to illustrate this conflict shows both the heat of the protests (364) and her personal internal
struggle trying to find the balance between two different classes she wished to be part of (365).
Its obvious that this issue does not only affect the large scale, but the individual scale for those
caught between.
I have lived my entire life in Utah, mostly in this little town with what I had thought
(before this course) to be almost no diversity. However, if we break diversity not into race or

Ruthann West

gender, but into class, its evident even here. In Tooele, we have a few different geographical
separations. The rich live on the hill, which is generally the south-east part of town. Its all
nice, older, larger houses with neat yards and homeowners associations. This is the
neighborhood you take your kids to for trick-or-treating, because they receive the nicest candy.
They have their own parks and schools up there that we down below dont usually bother
visiting.
We have the Broadway area- the area of low income, broken down housing with bare
or no yards, abandoned buildings and a street of bars. This area doesnt really have parks very
near, save for a single city run park that one does not visit after dark. If you come across
someone in this area alone, the best thing to do is to walk away without making eye contact.
We have the trailer trash communities, home to the sometimes even self-proclaimed
rednecks of this city. With loud, intoxicated parties late into the night and half clothed children
running amok, the stereotype of this separate class is propagated in the eyes of all those who do
not live there.
These neighborhoods are segregated by income, which changes your projected social
standing. The Broadway area families dont make much money, and the hill class Ive come to
find tend to thrive on old money. The trailer park families I am familiar with are the low income
end (sometimes through no real fault of their own) of the working class. This is the thought that
crosses the most minds when thinking of class separation: money. It isnt wrong; what perhaps
needs to change is the treatment of the poor class versus the rich. Those families that live near
the Broadway area probably do not view it the same way as those on the hill, or even the true
middle class a little further north.

Ruthann West

To take this example of Tooele to a much broader, more severe scale, one may turn the
eye toward the slums of large cities. Almost everyone can picture the corresponding ramshackle
shelters, filth and dirty children associated with the term slum. These people are not treated
differently by the high class the same way Tooeles people on the hill treat Broadway
dwellers. These people, if not ignored, have become a spectacle of poverty.
The slums of India, South Africa, etc are full of impoverished workers and families who
typically do not have the means available to them to work toward something better. These folk
are to be pitied, and so the upper class will take a tour through the neighborhoods of the less
fortunate. Almost as if to remind themselves that they are good people and care for the plights of
this lowest of the low classes, though they are of an upper class. Christopher Root does a good
job of describing this in week 7 of our course: The almighty dollar prevails again, as a sucker is
born every minute and willing to pay money to walk around and feel better about their own lives
while being forced to view those struggling to make a decent living.
Slum tourism has its advocates, who say it promotes social awareness. And its good
money, which helps the local economy. But its not worth it. Slum tourism turns poverty into
entertainment (Odede, 519). The separation of these people from low, middle, AND upper
classes occurs in regard to income, education and culture. They have passed the borders of how
we view class in America.
The social class structure has a major effect on art as well. George and Trimbur mention
the link between class and art before an essay by Cockcroft and Barnet-Sanchez regarding public
murals. George and Trimbur explain that while murals used to be held in high standards, they
have since come to belong to the working class, part of the barrioscape (303). In LA, mural

Ruthann West

painting had become the only way for those of the Chicano culture/class to express their heritage
and strife.
As a result of the higher society deeming murals as a low art form, these are often
considered graffiti, and looked upon with disdain. This is another example of the power the
upper class has on society. Mass opinion can be derived from what those of an upper class
believe. Perhaps their lives seem tantalizing to the middle/low classes, and so some in the lower
classes model themselves accordingly.
These examples make one thing very clear: the upper class has the upper hand. Whether
it be because of culture or income, whatever class is perceived to be higher is richer overall.
They are the privileged. Whether or not this is true beyond the outsider views is beyond me; Im
neither high nor low class but somewhere in between (though after some of these readings, I
admit fully that I am more privileged than most). However, it seems to me that class settings can
dictate many other things. In America, while not all whites are upper class, they are deemed
higher than those of other races in many regions and thus tend to rule the language spoken, the
history taught, the styles worn.
We have already spoken about how class does exist independent of race. It can also be
linked. In America especially, our history rife with racial disparity, we can see the connection. It
predates any of us in this course and goes back to how much higher Europeans saw themselves
above Native Americans. Fast forward to the time of slavery, just before the civil war. Slaves
were so low on the totem pole Im not sure that by the masses they were considered a class, so
much as livestock. However, skimming over that debate, we see Frederick Douglass: a free man,
an ex-slave, wanted at the Corinthian Hall for his achievements. He doesnt necessarily place

Ruthann West

himself or his people in a lower class, just a class apart. At the time, this was due to skin color
directly. The difference and intolerance of colored skin lead to a separation of class.
while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men. We are
called upon to prove that we are men (466). Douglass makes a point on how his people and
white people are in the same positions, are capable of the same things, but even free black men
were considered a separate class. They were then treated accordingly, which is not to say well.
Social classes are separated by many features and different mind-frames. Old money, new
money, no money. Culture and education. There will always be the upper, middle, and lower
classes in every one of these features- the mere existence of class is not necessarily the issue. It
only adds to the diversity we see in many other facets of American, or human, life. The
intolerance between classes stems from behavior and attitude. The treatment of these classes
must change. Just as Americans should be more accepting of their other diversities, so should we
be more accepting of those of different social status. The lower class could be assisted more by
the high class. The high class could be educated more by the middle/low class, and even if no
active assistance can be given, tolerance and acceptance are worthy goals. Diversity is not a
cloud that holds only thunder. If America could accept its own diversity, it would be a credit to
our country.

Ruthann West

Works Cited:

Douglass, Frederick. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? 460-475. Reading

Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing, 8th Ed. 2012. Print.
George and Trimbur. Reading Culture, Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing, 8th Ed.

303. 2012. Print.


Lu, Min-Zhan. From Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle. 147-156. Reading Culture:

Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing, 8th Ed. 2012. Print.
Odede, Kennedy. Slumdog Tourism. 518-519. Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical

Reading and Writing, 8th Ed. 2012. Print.


Sartrapi, Marjane. The Veil. 361-368. Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading
and Writing, 8th Ed. 2012. Print.