Chris Horton is the major organizer of the Worcester For Bernie group. He wrote an excellent email to the group about classism. He has give me permission to publish his email here. The addressee, Bobbie, is not the issue, but I didn’t want to edit out any of Chris’s words.
Bobbie, if you experience the Clark neighborhood as dangerous, I won’t try to deny your reality, although I believe that our campaign must not be afraid to go wherever the people are. I’ll walk you to your car when I get the chance. But I want to say something about “classism”, because I think understanding it is essential to our success.
Rebecca Solnit, in her book “Hope in the Dark” p 25, wrote “imagine the world as a theater. The acts of the powerful and the official occupy center stage. … The limelights there are so bright they blind you to the shadowy spaces around you … from the places that you have been instructed to ignore or rendered unable to see come the stories that change the world …”
Those of us who grew up with class privilege, with the help, expectations and pressure that pushed us into success in school, the good first jobs that go to those with a degree as a Certified Public Gentleman or Lady, and indoctrination in a whole raft of beliefs, ideas, stories and selected facts meant to support the system of privilege and power, are often blind to the reality of the regular working people around us. Blind to the urgency of their lives and the insanity of the positions they find themselves in, and most of all blind to the pain of being a working person in America, what one author called the “hidden injuries of class”. The pain of being looked down on, of having your ideas and perceptions discounted and undervalued, of having your intelligence doubted and having doors closed in your face, of being mistreated and disrespected by officials and police, of working too long and hard, living in fear of job loss and unemployment, unable to take off when our families need us and having to swallow our feelings and jump when the boss says jump. If this sounds a lot like the experience of racism, it is. For Black working people, women, immigrants there’s overlays of discrimination that can be devastating. For white working folk there’s the bitterness of the judgment that because of their skin color they should have done better, that their condition must be due somehow to their own failure.
If you want to understand how so many working people stayed home when their votes could have stopped Trump, how some basically decent people could even vote for him, the answer is I believe in their experience of politicians telling us pretty lies but not even seeing the agonizing economic and social reality of our lives, politicians who won’t take on the fight for – in Bernie’s words – anything that will cost the billionaire class serious money. This manipulation and blindness triggers a lifetime of the pain of being overlooked and thought a lesser person.
These are the people – of all races, colors and nationalities, urban and rural, men and women of all gender identities – who most hunger for Bernie’s message, and those of us with a background of class privilege, with our skill and inclination to take charge, need to include them in our leadership and meet them where they are, with open hearts and minds and the humility of accepting that they may see the reality of our world far more clearly than we do.
I hope that helps.