What Class Am I?

Some mixed-class workshops are coming up at which we may at some point divide into separate groups based on the labels “raised poor,” “working class,” “middle class,” and “owning class.” A person may have to decide which group to go to, which label best fits their experience. People are asking, “What class am I?” There is no correct answer.

The four categories above describe general roles assigned to us in a class society, but they only approximately describe any one person’s experience. Many of us have influences from several of them, and we may at different times go to different groups to look at each one.

It is most useful to talk about our experience of class oppression. The question I use in classes on “class” is “What is your connection to the working class?” (I described this in my article “A Useful Format for Working on Class Oppression,” on page 47 of the October 1996 Present Time.) Every RCer has an answer to this question. It is also useful for people who are not Co-Counselors. Some RCers were raised in economic systems outside of capitalism, but this question works for them too.

Genocide, racism, anti-Jewish oppression, sexism, war, immigration, “mental health” oppression, Gay oppression, disability oppression, and many other factors contribute to our experience of class oppression. It is good to talk about all of these. They cannot be separated from questions about class.

The important thing is for each of us to tell our story, independent of labels, and to discharge on the strengths and hurts associated with it.

When there is time, such as at a weekend workshop, it is good to avoid the general labels and set up support groups of four to six people with similar, more specific class backgrounds. Some examples are “raised middle class but downwardly mobile through divorce,” “mixed and confused children of Asian immigrants,” and “raised rural working class.”

My proposed “Initiative on Ending Classism” (see page 8 of the July 2014 Present Time) asks people in the RC Community to focus their discharging and thinking on a particular sector of the working class—one that plays a key strategic role in the economic system. I define it as “people engaged in the direct production of goods and services.” This sector’s labor directly creates the wealth that all other people in the class system depend on. It is also the sector least represented in RC, despite its being the largest sector of the working class in the world. In my article I list other strategic reasons for focusing on this group.  

Most RCers live in the United States, a country that plays an oppressor role economically in the worldwide system of capitalism. So even though we as USers might be working class or poor, we need to discharge and think about our oppressor distress as USers and not just about how we have been or are oppressed.

Our class background does not in any way inherently limit the role we can play in ending classism. Each class has its strengths and liabilities. We can develop the strengths we have from our experience and discharge whatever prevents us from playing a useful role.

Please keep sharing your experiences with and questions about moving against classism.

Dan Nickerson

International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People

Freeport, Maine, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00