April 17, 2017
By Mollie-March Steinmen
I’ve heard it from folks of all economic backgrounds– not liking rich people is some form of discrimination, similar to not liking low-income folks. It has always been challenging to talk about class differences in America. Most people identify as middle-class, despite most of them actually being high or low-income earners. American culture has long worshipped celebrities, tabloids, and materialism, which may explain a national reluctance to discuss issues of wealth and poverty directly.
I’ve heard folks from low-income backgrounds qualify statements about wealthy people, saying things like, “I know it might be classist to feel this way, but I just don’t like rich people.” And even more so, I’ve heard this kind of mess from economically privileged people, which is usually some form of whining for being called out on their privilege. The article I linked includes some pretty embarrassing statements from a student who is “sick of lying” about her wealth. This student actually lied about having student loans to escape the “shame” of being seen as privileged. This example makes me feel a sense of urgency about introducing a new term to our vocabulary that describes “rich fragility,” as well as white fragility. Feeling guilty or ashamed about being wealthy is just as unhelpful as feeling guilty about being white. It does nothing to alleviate the real burdens that come with poverty.
Class refers to a power structure that marginalizes and excludes a vast portion of our society. Wealth and power are inextricably related, and right now, power is incredibly concentrated. As of January, just eight men own the same wealth as half of the world. This statistic should shake our world into awareness and mobilize an intersectional economic justice revolution like we’ve never seen before. But it was publicized months ago, and it…hasn’t. People are still declaring how wealthy folks “earned” their status in society, and simultaneously shaming low-income folks for their status. Until our classist culture is transformed, it is hard to imagine a successful liberation for anyone.
I asked some fellow students their views about disliking wealthy people, and whether feeling that way was classist. Check out some of their responses below!
“I wouldn’t consider it classist because if someone with money doesn’t like someone because they live under the poverty line, that is classist because systematically, they’re the dominant group. I think it’s similar to how racism works, because if someone who isn’t wealthy doesn’t like me, they can decide not to help me, or give me money, because they’re in control of the resources that I need. But if I live under the poverty line and I didn’t like someone who is wealthy, I don’t have anything that they need….It doesn’t affect them negatively, it doesn’t oppress them.”
Teri Bradford, junior at Chatham University, Communications Journalism Major
“You can’t be classist against rich people because rich people can’t be oppressed for being rich.”
Kaitlyn Shirey, junior at Chatham University, Creative Writing & Physics Double Major
“There is reasonable cause for distrust towards affluent individuals by lower-income and working class individuals. The reason it’s reasonable to have this distrust is because just like with race, there has been systematic oppression put on working and lower-class individuals by the affluent society.”
Maryann Fix, senior at Chatham University, Social Work Major
“If you’re insulted by someone’s cries for help, try not standing on their chest.”-
Tyler Hudson, junior at University of Iowa, English Literature & Cinematic Arts Major