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:

Clothing, Hygiene and Shopping as Class and Race Issues

Quotes from Barbara Smith, John Anner, and Gloria Anzaldúa

Some people, in their attempts to be anti-establishment, pay little or no attention to personal grooming, not washing on a regular basis, not using deodorant. I find this highly offensive.

It first came to our attention during organizing around the Amadou Diallo trial, which was moved from New York City to Albany to escape protest, but we made sure there was protest. My friend who was the point person for Diallo organizing said, "I just can't stand it when younger people don't wash, it's just so unpleasant to be in a closed space with them."

We organized buses from Albany to the April 20 anti-war rally in Washington. A Puerto Rican sister in Stand for Peace said, "My husband won't ride those buses because he can't stand the smell." That doesn't help the cause, when a family of color won't take the bus because some people are so committed to not washing.

I think it's an act of hostility to be unpleasant to be around on a physical level, if one can make a choice about personal hygiene. I don't believe that soap or deodorant is a capitalist plot.

I find it insulting that they think the way to be down with the people is not to take care of personal hygiene. It's an old and inaccurate stereotype that black people are dirty. My aunt and my grandmother raised us not to leave the house without looking impeccable. They made their own soap from lye — not just growing up in the South, but in Cleveland in the 1950s — and ironed everything, right to our hair ribbons.

—Barbara Smith, author of The Truth That Never Hurts

It used to make me laugh to see the clothing at these Boston coalition meetings. The low-income women on welfare would turn out dressed as if they were going to the Sunday social, and all these middle-class activists from Harvard and Boston College would turn out in Salvation Army clothes, having invested very little in personal hygiene products. That's something that used to annoy me about middle-class folks, who dressed down because they didn't want anybody to think they were rich, while the poor folks dressed up because they wanted to be taken seriously.

—John Anner, author of Beyond Identity Politics: Emerging Social Justice Movements in Communities of Color

"Many women and men of color do not want to have many dealings with white people. It takes too much time and energy to explain to the downwardly mobile, white middle-class women that it's okay for us to want to own 'possessions', never having had any nice furniture on our dirt floors or 'luxuries' like washing machines."

—Gloria Anzaldúa, Making Face, Making Soul = Hacienda Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color