Class Matters Workshops

Download this brochure for more information on Class Matters workshops.

If you're interested in hosting a workshop, please click here for a brochure, or contact me about booking an event.

Order Class Matters

Class Matters book cover

Order Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists by Betsy Leondar-Wright (New Society Publishers, 2005).

Press Coverage of CM

Classist Comments

What's the most classist thing you ever heard someone say?

(I'm not talking about someone like Bill O'Reilly or your right-wing uncle. More specifically, what's the most classist thing you ever heard a liberal or progressive person say?)

Read five interviewees' answers — and my own.

Class and Other Identities

How do you experience class differently because of your race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, or other identity? What class dynamics do you notice within your identity groups?

Here's how a few visitors answered those questions:

And answers from the Class Matters book:

The Forgotten Majority

Book cover: America's Forgotten Majority

In America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters, Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers break down voting records by gender, race and class. They find that the bulk of the Republican resurgence from the 1980s to the 2000 election was due to non-union white working-class men abandoning the Democratic party, with over 20 percent of them switching from Democrats to non-voters or third party supporters or Republicans between 1960 to 2000.

By using polling data, they debunk the myth that this represented a swing towards rightwing, conservative values. Polls show that on issues such as abortion, gay rights and the environment, these voters, like most of the country, became slightly more liberal in the 1980s and 1990s. Nor did working-class white men become more anti-government. They did, however, become more disappointed in government, feeling that public programs had done little for them. Jack Metzgar characterizes white non-union men as those "not protected by a union, a bachelor's degree or affirmative action [who have] lost much ground in wages and benefits over the past quarter-century, while often being culturally and politically lumped into the 'white male' power structure with whom they share little but the color of their genitalia."

When income trends are broken down, working-class white men are the only group for which median income actually fell from 1979 to 1998. College-educated people surged ahead. Non-college-educated people of color and white women gained ground, although from a much lower starting point. Hope for the future and belief in the redistributive powers of government programs have made more sense to other working-class and low-income people than to white men, who actually saw a new generation earn less than their fathers. Deindustrialization, globalization and de-unionization meant good jobs disappearing. Teixeira and Rogers attribute the change in voting patterns to bitterness at falling behind economically. They recommend that the Democratic party take up a platform that would help working-class white men as well as other working-class people — universal health care, retirement security, and access to education.

When I told one long-time progressive activist I was writing a cross-class alliance building manual, this reply popped out of her mouth: "We don't have to worry about those red parts of the country anymore, now that people of color are a majority." She was referring to the color code of the 2000 Bush/Gore election map, in which the middle and south of the country tended to vote red Republican and the northern coasts and northern midwest tended to vote blue Democrat, labeled Red America and Blue America by David Brooks in "One Nation, Slightly Divisible" (Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 2001). She was also referring to a recent Census announcement that people of color are now over 30 percent of the US population, but would be over 50 percent by 2050. I had not specified white working class people in my description of the project; it's interesting how often the words "working class" evoke a white image, and usually a white male image. And her image was not only white, but middle American and conservative. Her voice was full of scorn for white working class people, and relief that she now didn't need to work with them to keep the Republicans out of office. She was imagining a voting bloc made up of people of color and white middle-class liberals like herself.

Teixeira and Rogers respond to such hopes by saying that "the Democrats may be able to wait out the forgotten majority [i.e. white working class people], as inexorable demographic trends attenuate their political influence. It could be a long wait. Extrapolating from current educational attainment trends and Bureau of the Census population projections, the forgotten majority might dip under 50 percent of voters by the year 2020. That's two decades from now and even then, we estimate they'll still comprise 48 percent of voters — a huge group that would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Democrats to work around."

Similarly, we need lots of working class white men in our "rainbow coalition" if it's going to have clout. But beyond pragmatic political reasons, the financial worries of millions of white working class people belong on the movement's radar screen as any urgent unmet human needs do.