Dear Sticky Wicket,
Are Americans defined more by class than race today?
~Rich versus Poor, Southern California
Dear Rich versus Poor,
Society likes categories. We like to put people in boxes of young, old, rich, poor, male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, black, and white. And we treat people differently depending upon those distinctions.
When it comes to race, society has long held strict distinctions, many of which are overtly stereotypical. These beliefs long associated with blacks, include poverty, crime, and welfare. Whites possess the distinction of wealth, wholesomeness, and self-sufficiency.
Blacks and whites see the world through different lenses because of history and shared experiences. As a result, it creates a fraternity of race beyond mere skin color.
But hard economic times may cause these racially compartmentalized distinctions to begin to blur somewhat. As races share in either poverty or wealth it begins to create a fraternity of class, meaning that a poor black or Hispanic has more in common with a poor white kid than a rich black, white, or Hispanic kid and vice versa.
Carey O’Donnell president of the O’Donnell Agency public relations firm says the definition of class incorporates parameters of experience, education, and customs, so regardless of race, those with higher education and life experience have more in common with each other.
“For instance, white, well-travelled New Yorkers with good educations, have more in common with wealthy Hispanic families or businessmen from Sao Paolo, than a family living at poverty level in Arkansas,” O’Donnell says.
Although there is a certain cultural gap between these Brazilians and New Yorkers, O’Donnell adds. For the most part, they still study the same things, travel to the same places, and enjoy similar dining and health related experiences within their own cultural norms.
“The poverty level family, no matter what their race, is not in synch with these experiences,” she says.