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:

Street Clash in Boston

At the Presidential debate in Boston in 2000, I witnessed clashes between union Gore supporters and college-educated supporters of the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader. What appeared on TV that night was not either side's point of view, but chaotic scenes of shoving matches and shouting. This conflict exemplified some class differences in political culture and strategy.

The Nader supporters seemed to regard the conflict as a contest over intelligence and being right, and some seemed to feel superior in a blatantly classist way. When a Gore supporter yelled "Get a job," a Nader supporter yelled back, "Get an IQ!" Some rural Green Party members came across as condescending when they yelled things like "We're your conscience," and "Don't you understand that Gore will send your job abroad?"

The taunts I heard by clean-cut union guys, on the other hand, tended to be about the non-traditional appearance of the Nader supporters: "Cut your hair, you freak!" and "Take a bath!" were depressing throw-backs to the 60s. I engaged one young ironworker in conversation and he said, "You seem okay, but why do all of them look so weird?"

The Nader crowd quite proudly displayed multiple causes on their buttons and t-shirts. To these professional middle-class people, activism clearly meant individual expression of their values, and the more diversity of causes, the better. The Gore supporters had only one message: "Vote union, vote Gore," and their matching union caps and shirts made visible their "strength in numbers" unity strategy.

I talked with some of the most hostile people on both sides, and found an honest bewilderment at the other group's position. At least eight union members told me, "Nader may be a great guy, but he has zero chance of winning. Why throw away your vote?" I heard from several Nader supporters, "Gore supported NAFTA and the China bill. Why are unions supporting an anti-labor candidate?" The middle-class strategy was based on long-term, big-picture strategy and individual stands of conscience. The working-class position was pragmatic in the shorter term, and was based on group solidarity as a tool of power politics.