Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Some Comments about Race and Social Class

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jul 16, 2013 9:31 PM

When I was a small child, I argued with another little kid on my block about race. She said my nanny was a Negro. I said she was not. I didn't understand. She had a name and was nice and I didn't understand the label "Negro."

Then, growing up in suburban York, PA, when and where bigotry commonly reigned, the only Black people I knew were cleaning ladies and a basketball player. There was a social class difference, a gap in opportunity and race was a factor because the darker race had been left out and treated and educated poorly. I understood that and realized that my Jewish European family had undergone even worse, but those who survived had a leg up, due to education and a background of privilege, which enabled them to think of themselves as entitled and potentially successful.

My son grew up in a tiny college town where the few African Americans with whom he came into contact were professiors, deans and graduate students. He didn't "believe in race," just social class because he knew that the dark-skinned druggies and beggars in cities were underprivileged and the dark-skinned African profs and American Black academics he knew and their gifted children in his classes were privileged.

The racial anger, divisions and frustrations are social class differences. The color of the skin of a CEO, scientist, politician or doctor is irrelevent. Yet, people chose to define poor people by the color of their skin. They stereotype these minorities more if they are darker, though they aren't always that different from other poor people who have experienced deprivation and prejudice.

It used to be that obese, handicapped, or extremely religious people suffered in the same way that people of color in our society have. Now, those folks are so common that they aren't picked on as much. We would hope that our minority populations which are becoming more middle class would be spared that labeling and abuse, too.

My son explained prejudice well when he was 10. He was killing Soviets in a computer game and the Soviet refugees living with us said they didn't kill Americans in their videogames. So, he said, "We have more insecurity because we have more to lose." That's why non-powerful people get picked on, not because of anything about them specifically, but because some people are ignorant, afraid and think they have so much to lose that they better hurt anyone they think could ever need or want what they have. They try to prove that they can retain their own power by keeping others weakened. It's sick and over more than in the days of the Klan and Jim Crow.

The point is that labeling by skin color, ethnic identity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or whatever is artificial and a creation of society's social caste system. It takes on a different form with different content in different societies. It's human but wrong.

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