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:

Tips from Working-Class Activists

Have a Little Humility

Constant critiquing and challenging drains me. I think people learn it in college. Say you put up on the wall a proposed mission. Instead of discussing the content, people say "that word's not exactly right." Or they spend an hour arguing over the agenda. It's a big issue because it shuts people down.

It's a piece of movement culture, and working-class people learn to do it too, but I believe it comes from a middle-class perspective.

— Linda Stout

I don't know if you've ever heard this term "Miss Ann" but the Miss Ann attitude needs to be dispensed with. I'm talking about white middle-class arrogance. Sometimes the slightest comment sets our teeth on edge, and it's like, "Later for you! I don't need to be dealing with that mess, life's hard enough as it is."

— Barbara Smith

If grassroots people have attitudes of racism or anti-immigrant prejudice, a negative approach isn't productive. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, especially by a more privileged person. Instead, ask questions and help someone learn. Hold fast to principles, but let go of ideology. Equity is a principle, but "only one way to get there" is ideology.

— Barbara Willer

When some middle-class male activists start expounding, they turn into know-it-all gasbags. I wish I had the self-confidence of some of these guys who can talk on and on and on as if they were absolutely right about everything.

— Barbara Ehrenreich

My pet peeve is a technique for interrupting racism called "calling out." Say if you say something that's sexist, I say "Betsy, that's sexist" right there in the group. That's what some young middle-class people do, and they see it as a mighty blow for freedom. It's the norm in some groups, calling out. It chills the groups' environments; people are more scared, have less trust.

It comes from academia, where middle-class people are trained to maintain hierarchy in the society. Even if working-class children start out thinking they're equal, the teachers' and preachers' job is to remind them that they're not. So rating people on scales is common in schools. And it is brought to diversity work by college-educated people. In middle-class families, too, people are tested and found wanting, and sometimes excluded. Working-class people at our best are about acceptance, not testing each other.

I asked [working-class diversity trainer] Felice Yeskel about it. She said that if your goal is ranking people, calling people out works, but if your goal is helping people learn and grow, it's dysfunctional.

I had five people from the calling-out subculture in a workshop. They sat warily, waiting for someone to say something wrong so they could call them out, or waiting to be called out. It was Day 14 of a 17-day training before they could relax enough to learn anything. If we're aiming to build a movement able to take on the greatest empire the world's ever known, we need people who can put their attention on learning.

I know that when someone is inviting me to change my behavior about something, what works is when they approach me as a friend and I know they're caring about me rather than only about some political point they're trying to make. The missionary stuff reminds me of fundamentalists trying to save me, so I react defensively. I'd rather that a comrade simply approach me with the attitude of a friend who knows that we teach each other and give each other a hand.

— George Lakey