Our Classless Society
College students are known for being broke, heavily in debt, and surviving off of instant ramen, but there is also an invisible population of students who have “food insecurity”—not having enough to eat on daily basis. These students are often hidden because they feel ashamed about their circumstances.
Whew, Moira Donegan has a doozy of an essay over at the New Inquiry, whose issue this month is all about MONEY. In “Over Easy” Donegan talks about the work that goes into egg donation and the taboo of acknowledging the financial incentives for doing it. The matching process often brings together wealthy couples with women who, when ideal candidates, are often the financially struggling, aspirational versions of themselves.
According to most of the adults in our lives, openly talking about money is the rudest thing a person can possibly do—there’s a good chance we could only embarrass some of our parents more we you burped, farted, and swore in unison while seated at the president’s dinner table…and then asked how much he paid for his car. But we at Rookie don’t buy this “no money, no problems” attitude about what’s OK to talk about. There’s no better way to expand our perspectives than to try to understand what’s going on with other people, and there’s no better path to understanding than straight-up talking it out. Publicly discussing the actual factuals of class privilege isn’t bad manners—it’s a necessity if we want to support and educate one another, which I’m pretty sure we all do!
Rookie Mag published a conversation after our own hearts today. In a roundtable discussion between some of their writers, editors, and illustrators, they talk about everything from how they grew up, class signifiers, food and tv, class shame, and the difference between poor and broke (“less about dollars and numbers and more about resources and access.”).
It is excellent!
At The Week, Matt Bruenig looks at debate between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait, who have been discussing black culture and poverty, and how easy and wrong it is to conflate the two:
Our discourse around poverty, and particularly the so-called “culture of poverty,” often proceeds as if most poor people are black and most black people are poor. Neither is true. In 2012, 46.5 million people fell below the official poverty line. Within that 46.5 million, there were 1.9 million Asians, 10.9 million blacks, 13.6 million Latinos, and 18.9 million whites. Although black people have the highest poverty rate at 27.2 percent (barely above the Latino poverty rate of 25.6 percent), black poverty accounts for less than one-fourth of U.S. poverty.
Thus, most of what is said about black culture and black poverty fails to address three-fourths of the overall problem. What causes black poverty rates to be so elevated is an important discussion to have, but it is a much narrower one than most people seem to think. If black poverty rates were as low as white poverty rates, that would amount to seven million fewer people in the ranks of the impoverished. To reiterate: There are 46.5 million people currently below the official poverty line. Seven million people is a lot of people, but it is not the totality of the American poverty problem, not even close.
Bruenig also looks further back in our history when pundits also blamed poor whites for their “culture of poverty.” In a book published in 1979 called Dixie’s Forgotten People, Wayne Flint argued that “poor whites lacked ambition; they were violent, sexually promiscuous people who did not respect human life.” Bruenig sums it up like this: “anywhere you find poor people, you also find non-poor people theorizing their cultural inferiority and dysfunction.”
In this weekend’s NYT Magazine, Carina Chocano profiled a talented 15-year-old chef named Flynn McGarry who has apprenticed in well-regarded dining establishments like Alinea in Chicago and Eleven Madison Square Park in New York. McGarry plans to move to New York when he is 17 to work at a restaurant, and hopefully start work on his own restaurant at 19. His talent and ambition is impressive.
But as L.V. Anderson points out in Slate, as talented as McGarry is, he has been able to do much of the things he has accomplished so far thanks to the wealth of his family and the connections they have.
David Graeber wrote a thing for the Guardian about how “caring too much” is the curse of the working class, who are generally nicer and more empathetic overall, mostly because they have to be.
For the Baffler, Heather Havrilevsky looks at how class is handled, or mishandled, on TV today. She covers GIRLS, Downton Abbey, Revenge, and Gossip Girl, to name a few, and the verdict isn’t great.
Monica Potts spent months following men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s from West Baltimore as they tried to make honest lives for themselves and find decent paying jobs.
Love your water cooler chat, Planet Money, and love that you followed through on it and tracked down then parsed a longitudinal government study following 12,000 people for 30 years. Enter many strangely fascinating graphs.