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White Working-Class RCers and Allies

I am a white, middle-class, Protestant Southerner and an RC teacher in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Our developing RC Area has been predominantly middle and owning class and until recently all white.

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I noticed that some of the working-class Co-Counselors in the Area were having a hard time. I proposed to three of them that we have a class for white working-class people and allies. They were enthusiastic about it, and we counseled and talked about what to do. They decided that I should lead it and they would participate in a panel.

Ten people attended the class—two working-class, two owning-class, and six middle-class people. The two working-class people who had helped to plan the class (the third couldn’t come at the last minute) shared their answers to the following questions:

What is good about being working class?

  • We feel connected and like we have always had people close to us.

What is hard about being working class?

  • Many settings (such as our workplaces) are dominated by middle-class patterns. This makes us feel like we don’t know the rules, are emoting more than others, or are too loud or too crass.
  • We get the message that we or our people are bad or stupid.

What is good about being working class in RC?

  • We have learned about classism, which has given us the perspective that we are not bad—classism is bad!
  • When Dan Nickerson (the International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People) comes to town, we get an extra day with him.

What is hard about being working class in RC?

  • We are working-class people who can “pass” for [appear to be] middle class, and RC feels like one more place where to be acceptable we have to learn and follow the rules.
  • The RC Communities can be somewhat rigid about addictions. Addictive substances like cigarettes and alcohol are sold most aggressively to working-class people and are also the addictions that the Communities tend to be most rigid about. Disapproval is how we working-class people are shown that we are not meeting middle-class standards. When Co-Counselors are disapproving about addictions, even subconsciously, we feel unsafe to be ourselves.
  • It feels unsafe to bring into the Community friends and family who don’t “pass” for middle class because they don’t look right or know the rules (and might be Republicans!).
  • Middle- and owning-class white liberals often feel superior to people who disagree with them. Since the U.S. presidential election, we have seen middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors act out, rather than discharge, this feeling. We (or our people) are targeted with the assumption that rural white (often Southern) working-class people are to blame for the election of Donald Trump.
  • Middle-class patterns of pretense join with “mental health” oppression when middle-class Co-Counselors encourage working-class Co-Counselors to have big sessions that the middle-class Co-Counselors don’t actually have attention for.

What do you want middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors to discharge on?

  • They can work on what they don’t like about working-class people—not act it out.
  • They can work on whether they actually want working-class people in the Community—not just keep telling us to bring our friends when they don’t actually have attention for them.
  • They can think about what it would be like if things were not neat and orderly and people were not just like them.
  • Working-class Co-Counselors should not be the ones to counsel middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors on these things, just as we don’t expect any other targeted group to counsel its oppressor group.

At the end of class, the working-class Co-Counselors said it had been a relief to say what RC feels like to them, how middle class it feels, and to not be expected to pretend that everything is fine just because all of the individuals are good people. One big middle-class pattern is to make sure that nobody’s feelings ever get hurt, so it was good for them to talk about how their Co-Counselors’ patterns can be really hard sometimes.

I asked Dan Nickerson to read this article, and he said, “The only thing I would add is that middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors should ask working-class and poor Co-Counselors how their relationships with their working-class and poor friends and family are going. They can also give them sessions on the new Goal on Ending Classism* and on getting RC theory and practice to their friends and family. Sometimes middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors just focus on their own distresses in this area rather than giving poor and working-class Co-Counselors a hand [some help]. I think this is because the middle- and owning-class Co-Counselors assume that they are not a resource. This is not so. And giving help is a good way to learn how to be helpful.”

I would love to hear how other Communities are working to make RC safer and more accessible for working-class Co-Counselors.

Anne-Claire Broughton

Durham, North Carolina, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion listfor RC Community members

(Present Time 191, April 2018)


 * The Goal on Ending Classism, adopted by the 2017 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities: That the members of the RC Community, in order to move toward a rational society free of exploitation, commit ourselves to do the following:  • Build connections with and learn from members of economic classes that are underrepresented in our Community yet who represent the majority of the world’s people—the sector of the working class engaged in the direct production of goods and services, and poor people. • Get the theory and practice of RC into their hands and encourage, support, and follow their leadership. • Face, discharge on, and challenge any distress that causes us to believe that some lives are more important than others, to seek economic advantage over one another, or to be preoccupied with irrationally seeking comfort and security. • Discharge toward a full understanding of the class society and its inherently destructive nature and communicate this understanding to others in our own way.

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