Streams

Class Dismissed

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sherry Linkon, professor of English and American studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio, where she is also co-director of the university's Center for Working-Class Studies, says negative perceptions about the working class usually go unchallenged.

Guests:

Sherry Linkon

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Comments [40]

Janet Wetherbee from Bronxville, NY

I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Yonkers. It was incredibly racist though, having lived in middle and upper middle class areas since, I agree with Dr. Linkon that working class people may appear more racist because their communication style is more direct. But it's more than that. There is more racism among white working class people because they perceive minorities as being a more direct threat to their economic security. The first wave of civil rights legislation that enforced quotas had more of an impact on working class people. Forced busing and the expansion of low-income housing located in primarily working class neighborhoods gave Yonkers a reputation that it will never live down, as the national press ran photos of angry white working class people protesting all over the city. All of this was exploited in the post-Vietnam class warfare propaganda created by Nixon. This helped clinch the continual pattern of working class people voting against their own best interests based on emotions instead of reason. Working class people, by and large, deserve the racism label because they helped put us in the mess we're in right now. If Barack Obama does not win -- in this economy -- racism is the ONLY explanation.

Sep. 19 2008 08:42 AM
Charles from Harlem

This talk of Obama being "elitist" (as if having a beer with George W. Bush makes the prep-schooled Bush, fils, "just one o' the guys") smacks of a thinly-veiled accusation of being an "uppity Negro" to me. In the recent past, this racist rebuke was stated more baldly in the South (or North).

Well-educated, well-qualified "articulate" blacks were accused of being "uppity" when they didn't "stay in their place," always a "place" comprising a social difference to and status beneath whites--REGARDLESS OF ECONOMIC CLASS.

Of course European immigrants would recognize and capitalize on their relative white-skin privileges vis-a-vis their "uppity" black counterparts-turned-competitors, hence the eventual need for government programs like "civil rights" and "voting rights" and "equal opportunity" etc. to counteract white-skinned entitlements.

Sep. 18 2008 07:48 PM
Rob from Bronx

Ron Bass from NJ, when they do that segment on black racism I hope that they address the issue of the percentage of delegate at the Republican convention that were black or latino/hispanic or asian or any other ethnic group besides white.

Sep. 18 2008 05:27 PM
Ron Bass from Elizabeth, NJ

Brian and guest.

94% to 97% of black voters say they favor Senator Barack Obama.

30% to 45% of white Americans favor Senator Barack Obama.

Based on the facts above black Americans win the racist superbowl in this election by a blowout.

Looking forward to a follow up show on black racism.

Sep. 18 2008 03:50 PM
Rob from Bronx

Paul from NYC, I am puzzled by your comment!? You can argue a lot of things about blacks and their voting patterns but the one thing that you cannot argue with a straight face is racism. What was the black vote for Bill Clinton (84% in 1996) or Al Gore (90%) and John Kerry (88%)? BTW all of the above white men. If Obama gets 90% of the black vote he will equal Al Gore, a white man. You are certainly free to vote for the candidate of your choice but please do not ascribe non existent motives to any people's voting pattern. If you have a valid case backed by data I would love to see it.

To Mary from NY. Is Obama a veiled racist to his black half or to his white half?

Sep. 18 2008 12:55 PM
Paul from NYC from New York City

I noticed the Youngstown professor, when talking about racism in the election, never even considered black racism. It's obvious from the voting in the primaries (over 90% of blacks for Obama)that almost all blacks vote race and not issues. Why shouldn't whites do the same?
I personally always vote against Democrats, whatever their color, and back when we (Republicans) considered running Colin Powell for president against Clinton I would have gladly voted for him.

Sep. 18 2008 12:19 PM
Peter Sibley from Connecticut

I'm perplexed by the preference for a president being a person I could have a beer with, "who is just like me". Governing this country, in this world, is perhaps THE most difficult and complex calling that one could imagine. I am college educated with a couple of degrees; I've run a business and have made it to 66 years of age fairly successfully but I am just as certain that I could not run this country to save my soul. The last thing I want is a president "just like me".

Sep. 18 2008 11:48 AM
Thom H from Bronx NY

I'm with RA from CT. I've heard some of this - working / middle class people, or any people for that matter, being fine with Obama as a black man, but being uncomfortable with his perceived status (not actual status) as a Muslim (he's Christian). Where's the discussion on religious ignorance and bigotry?? e.g. "Obama sounds like Osama"?
To quote a participant from the All Things Considered discussion on race in York Pa:
"I look at Obama, and I have a question in my mind," she says. "Years ago, was he taken into the Muslim faith? And my concern is the only way you are no longer a Muslim is if you are dead, killed. So in my mind, he's still alive."
Wow.
(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94523754)

Sep. 18 2008 11:40 AM
AWM from UWS

Just ask Obama. The guy they won't vote for...

"In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends."

Sep. 18 2008 11:34 AM
John from Washington, DC

I vote for equal marriage and against tax cuts. Am I irrational for voting against my economic interests?

Sep. 18 2008 11:34 AM
Jen from Manhattan

Obama is stuck in a Catch-22 between race and class. It may be that working class, and other, people see him as effete (highlighted all the more by Palin's moose hunting, small-town living, state-school hopping) but, as a black man, there's no way he would be running for president in the first place without those Columbia and Harvard degrees. Black people still need to be twice as educated to be considered, in this comparison, just as inexperienced.

Sep. 18 2008 11:30 AM
Mary from New York


Your guest suggests that working class people are more direct and the more elite well educated class is guarded and less transparent.

Doesn’t that describe the Harvard educated Obama? Perhaps the working class sees him as just one of those veiled racists.

Sep. 18 2008 11:29 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Well, Brian, will you do a series of segments between now and the campaign to address this? Bring it out into the open and have people talk about it. Why not follow up on Obama's speech from last March. We need to have a conversation aobut race.

Sep. 18 2008 11:28 AM
barry from Manhattan

Oh Brian already did a show on the 50/50 thing
"Obamas Racial catch 22"
I missed it

Sep. 18 2008 11:26 AM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

Steve Mark,

You cannot compare the pride a minority group has in voting for a fellow-minority with the fear of a majority group in refusing to vote for a minority. What was the support among Mormons for Mitt Romney? What was the support among 60+ white women for Hillary? What was the support among Fundamentalists for Huckabee? Look at McCain's support among veterans, a group whose interests he has consistently opposed! The smaller the minority, the more likely they are to support "one of their own." It IS NOT the same as whites - the majority - refusing to vote for a black person out of fear and prejudice.

Bill Clinton was also tremendously popular with the black electorate, but he is white. So how do you explain that?

Sep. 18 2008 11:25 AM
barry from Manhattan

Isnt Obama really white anyway?
Why do people say he is black?
Isnt it just as valid to say he is white?
Since he is 50/50

Sep. 18 2008 11:25 AM
Matthew Noah Smith from Brooklyn

Here are the promised examples (sorry if this is a double post):

When you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

When you can call yourself a "effin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their effin' a**," and talk about how you like to "shoot s**t" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

When you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in the first place because of affirmative action.

Sep. 18 2008 11:24 AM
O from Forest Hills

What income level is used to define working class for this discussion?

Less than $50k?

Sep. 18 2008 11:23 AM
Ann T. Greene from New Haven, CT

While I think there is some credence to Prof. Linkin's claim that class may have more to do with some whites' aversion to Obama all I can think of is that Hillary Clinton went to WELLESEY and YALE. And she was not particularly a working-class heroine until a few months ago. So, tell me again why you think it's class?

Sep. 18 2008 11:22 AM
Matthew Noah Smith from Brooklyn

the promised examples (these are not my own):

The double standard is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

The double standard is when you can call yourself a "effin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their effin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot s--t" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

The double standard is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in the first place because of affirmative action.

Sep. 18 2008 11:22 AM
Joe Grayson from NYC

I don't understand how it is a given that the working class is voting against its economic interests when they vote Republican? This is a point of contention - some believe that the Republicans are better for the economy, some believe the Democrats are better.
This seems to me to be a strong support of the idea that the media is biased AND that the Democrats/liberals are Elites looking down on the Lower Classes and telling them what is good for them.
Thank you - love the show and listen to it every day!

Sep. 18 2008 11:22 AM
Lorenzo from NJ/NY

Seems to me that "working class" is usually meant as: "majority of voters". Surely millionaires can be racist but
their impact, once they are in the ballot, is limited.

Sep. 18 2008 11:22 AM
Mike in Manhattan from Inwood, NYC

I grew up in Northern Indiana. My father was a welder in an automobile plant. I was the first member of my family to graduate from college and I spent 3 summers working in Youngstown Sheet & Tube in East Chicago, IN. while an undergraduate. Judging from family members and old friends, racism is more overt and perhaps a little more prevalent. What is much more common is the greater vulnerability of working class people to being persuaded to vote against their own interests in ways than more wealthy and better educated people. Race is one, but not the only means of that kind of persuasion.

Sep. 18 2008 11:21 AM
Matthew Noah Smith from Brooklyn

I cannot believe this. The issue is not class, here. The issue is that there is a double standard at play and simplistic blather about the "white working class" - as if they are a unified group - simply reinforces the conditions under which attacks can be leveled at them.

Let's look, instead, at the way in which poor whites are judged in ways differently than poor people of color. And then let's ask: is there a double standard? If there is, then we do not blame poor whites, but instead those who use the double-standard. If working class people who are white use the double standard, then by all means, let's tee up on them.

So, here's a sampling of the double standard, courtesy of an email a friend sent me:

Sep. 18 2008 11:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What I'm wondering is if working-class people are feeling ignored. I keep hearing speeches mention "the middle class" & very seldom the working class--let alone poor people (who may or may not actually be working).

Sep. 18 2008 11:19 AM
AWM from UWS

The "white working class" is disparaged because they vote against their own interests in order to vote for the elitist who does the best impersonation of them.

Sep. 18 2008 11:18 AM
Mike from NYC

What's the difference between "stereotyping" and the sort of generalizations the guest is making about the white working class. Is it only stereotyping if it's negative?

Sep. 18 2008 11:17 AM
M. from Brooklyn

Example of an upper-class racist? I'd place my money on Democrat and Clinton supporter Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who was quoted as saying of Obama, "Frankly I don't like him." She will be voting for McCain.

Sep. 18 2008 11:16 AM
Steve Mark from NYC

Two points:

1. What do you call a 90%+ support from the African American community? Is this any qualitatively better than whites being more comfortable with whites?

2. "Working class" is really a euphemism for non-college grands and/or those who reside west of the Hudso and east of the Sierra Madres.

It's an awful moniker.

Sep. 18 2008 11:16 AM
Phoebe

I'd think of working class as being tied to a task, whereas the middle class would have some input to the direction of the "work". So John is right in that all need to work for wealth and identity.

This isn't tied to income, but to opportunity and to some extent education and aspirations.

I'd imagine "middle class" suburban communities were less diverse that "working class" suburban communities and no one group is more likely racist than the other.

Talking about the reasons people vote for candidates (have a beer with, rather than issues) is truly scary... but isn't this part of the media's focus away from any substance which makes us all dumber.

Sep. 18 2008 11:15 AM
Spence from UWS

Race is the under-discussed issue in this campaign. I am an Obama supporter who thinks he will lose even though all the issues are on his side -- because of racism and subtle race-baiting by the McCain-Palin machine and the Republican party which, after all, perfected race baiting with the Willie Horton ad.

Sep. 18 2008 11:15 AM
RA from CT

How about dealing with the question that the rural white working class voters are more likely to believe emails, passed around often among friends and neighbors, that Obama is a Muslim, he refuses a flag pin, and all the rest of the false claims.

Sep. 18 2008 11:15 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Please ask the guest to explain why the term “working class” is used when “Small-town White”, and/or “White Blue-collar” workers are what is really meant. Not only is the implication racist, it is also biased against metropolitan areas and people who WORK for a living, but happen to do so in an office and not a factory or in the service industry. New York City has more working-class people of virtually every race than any other place in The United States. Also, please define when someone goes from “working class” to “sitting around on their bum doing nothing class” whether they are blue-collar or white-collar, college educated, high school educated, or neither.

Sep. 18 2008 11:14 AM
rick

the "white working class" has been voting with Republicans since 1980, at least, and is therefore responsible for the trajectory the US has taken because of the GOP dominance.

I would love to hear what the Professor's explanation is of WHY they vote GOP on average, if it's not because of race. is it because of cultural issues like abortion, feminsim, gay rights? is it the hatred that the Republicans have stoked of the "liberal elites"?

Sep. 18 2008 11:13 AM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

This segment is dumb. Where is all this supposed commentary focused on working-class racism? Not one example is given. I don't see it. Just another group vying for the brass ring in the victimology sweepstakes.

Sep. 18 2008 11:12 AM
anonyme from NY NY

I think many professionals are joining the ranks of the working class.

Sep. 18 2008 11:12 AM
John from Washington, DC

Did you see the Saturday Night Live sketch *after* the Palin-Clinton opening? All about ignorant rural kids with frumpy clothes and accents.

Sep. 18 2008 11:08 AM
Nicole from Essex County, NJ

Join the club. How do you think black working class people feel? We get no breaks in the main stream media and popular culture. As a young, single, college educated black woman I am pojected as the exception and not the standard for inner-city blacks. It comes with the territory.

Sep. 18 2008 11:08 AM
John from Washington, DC

Please analyze the term "working" class? Don't "middle" class folks depend on work for their wealth and identities?

Sep. 18 2008 11:06 AM
John from Washington, DC

Why does white prejudice all get assigned to the working class? How do we know? I see plenty of racism among richer folks.

Sep. 18 2008 11:05 AM

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