This weeks topic is racism/classism in Chile. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that this is a topic I am fascinated by. In fact, I think I think about it much more than I actually blog about it. Still, I am really looking forward to what other people have to say (check out the links at the bottom of the blog– they are updated as people post).
Also, take a look at some of my past posts on racism and or classism in Chile:
- Class consciousness
- Contraceptive rights (but only for the rich)
- Protest in support of the morning after pill and Chilean women’s reproductive rights
And other posts just on classism or racism in general:
- NAACP supports the people of Jena; I do too. Do you?
- Once upon a time I was a linguist
- Stats that hurt (update: she made it back to a US PhD program safely last month)
- Children see. Children do.
- A triumphant return
- What women want
- Should poor people in developing nations use birth control if they choose?
- I am just 1 of 47,000,000
- Giving money to beggars
One of the things that is really interesting to me is the way Americans, in general, are comfortable about talking about race issues and racism but not class issues or classism. Chile, on the other hand, is the opposite. People are more comfortable talking about class issues and class than about race issues and race.
In fact, the conversation I generally have, goes like this:
Chilean person: There are real race issues in the states.
Me: Yes, there are huge problems. But I think race is a problem here.
Chilean: No, we don’t have race issues here. We do have issues with class.
Me: What do you mean.
Chilean: Well, people of lower class are really looked down upon.
Me: How can you tell who these people are?
Chilean: You just can.
Me: (finding a darker skinned Chilean in the crowd) What about that person… over there… what class are they?
Chilean: They are lower class.
Admittedly, this is not the exact wording; I am not transcribing this conversation. However, I have had the essence of this conversation well over 200 times with a huge variety of people in my dozen years going back and forth. Really, it doesn’t matter what the person I point out is wearing or where she is– the skin tone is a give away for class. In the US, you would be hard pressed to have this conversation. Not that classism doesn’t exist; it simply isn’t talked about or addressed. Therefore, I wanted to talk a bit about class, classism, class issues, theories on classism, types of classism in general. I guess the easiest way I can think of is by defining all pertinent terms.
Key Definitions for Classism
Class – Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, status, and/or power
Classism – The institutional, cultural, and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socio-economic class; and an economic system which creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet
Class Indicator – a factual or experiential factor that helps determine an individual’s class
Class Continuum – The ranking of individuals or families in a society by income, wealth, stats, or power; the range of experiences of which particular class identities are defined. Lines may be drawn at different points along this continuum, and labeled differently. Class is a relative thin, both subjectively and in terms of resources; our experience varies depending on whether we look up or down the continuum. However, it is clear that everyone at the top end is mostly agent/dominant, while everyone at the bottom end is mostly target/subordinate. The following demonstrates this:
Agents – Owning Class, Ruling Class
Mostly Agents – Middle Class
Mostly Targets – Working Class
Targets – Lower Class/Poor
Class Identity – A label for one category of class experience, such as ruling class, owning class, middle class, working class, lower class
Ruling Class – The stratum of people who hold positions of power in major institutions of the society
Owning Class/Rich – The stratum of families who own income-producing assets sufficient to make paid employment unnecessary
Middle Class – the stratum of families for whom breadwinners’ higher education and/or specialized skills brings higher income and more security than those of working- class people
Upper-Middle Class – The portion of the middle class with higher incomes due to professional jobs and/or investment income.
Lower-Middle Class – The portion of the middle class with lower and less stable incomes due to lower-skilled or unstable employment
Working Class – The stratum of families whose income depends on hourly wages for labor
Lower Class/Poor – The stratum of families with incomes insufficient to meet basic human needs
Individual Classism – This term refers to classism on a personal or individual level, either in behavior or attitudes, either conscious and intentional or unconscious and unintentional. Examples include the thought or belief that a certain type of work is beneath you, or the assumption that everyone has the financial resources to go out to an expensive restaurant.
Institutional Classism – This term refers to the ways in which conscious or unconscious classism is manifest in the various institutions of our society. Two examples from colleges – some schools give preference to children of alumni, thus making it harder for first-generation college applicants to get in; some schools reserve the most convenient parking spaces for faculty, even though they usually work more flexible hours than support staff.
Cultural Classism – This terms refers to the ways is which classism is manifest through our cultural norms and practices. It can often be found in the ideology behind something, as in the commercial for peanut butter, “choosy mothers choose Jif,” implying that if you buy the less expensive store brand you care less about your kids.
Other Chilean Bloggers thoughts on Class/Race in Chile: