Social Class Discrimination
As defined by Class Action, classism is a form of systemic oppression that subordinates groups based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is enabled by the dominant classes, like the middle or ruling classes, when they discriminate against subordinate classes, like the poor or working classes. To justify their perceived superiority, dominant classes may perpetuate negative stereotypes about subordinate classes and assign unsubstantiated negative characteristics to subordinate classes.
Because dominant classes define what is culturally acceptable, subordinate classes often struggle to meet the dominant class’s standards. As subordinate classes may lack access to resources or backgrounds available to dominant classes, the high standards set by dominant classes can be unobtainable. Without inherited wealth, quality education, or a polished accent, individuals from subordinate classes may face classism because they cannot conform.
Subordinate classes may internalize classism, believing the negativity dominant classes project onto them. By internalizing classism, subordinate classes may lash out at others within their social class. According to a study published in Psychological Science that examined students in Upstate New York, classism also contributes to poor health. The study found that students who grew up poor were more likely to face discrimination, which caused negative health effects.
Even though there is a stigma around discussing social class, discussing social class is an important first step in addressing classism. If families, schools, and the media discussed classism more often, there would be more knowledge and awareness about its harms. Through education and action, individuals can become a class ally, supporting anti-classism in their communities.
What can I do about this?
1. Open up and hold discussions about classism with friends and family. Try to respectfully dismiss classist jokes or comments, and in return you can offer accurate information.
2. Go out and try to establish friendships and relationships across class and race. This can help you gain a better understanding of others.