Cashing Checks: Head of the Class


An upper-level dressage competitor performing ...

An upper-level dressage competitor performing an extended trot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Okay, gonna go on about a little old news here: 70,000 dollar tax break for a dressage horse. That’s seventy thousand dollars. Seven, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero pennies. That, my friends, is a whole lot of Cheetos. That is more than four times what I have ever made in a single year in my life. It is almost twice the median income in our country. It is four years in college depending which university you attend. All that money for the investment in a hobby. Yet there are some who do not know why people are so upset.


Class privilege is weird. In some ways it is so much more obvious than other forms of privilege, yet in others it is more insidious and less challenged. Even among closet bigots it is considered impolite to be open about one’s willful racism (as opposed to the institutional variety all we white folk enjoy and if you do not realize that, there are entire sections of large libraries you need to read through.) It is, however, considered perfectly OK to trash those poorer than you as being lazy, untalented or just inherently less than you.


I believe it was Steinbeck who wrote that Americans have not rose up in a popular, socialist revolution because we don’t believe we are oppressed but rather “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” We hold on to our disdain for poverty because we want to be the people living on the hill. In a way it is funny that the GOP and their allies accuse liberals of being envious of the rich, because it is exactly that envy that allows them to continue to rob the poor with impunity. Everyone wants to enjoy that privilege, and it is the one kind that you have an outside chance of changing. Mind you it is a way outside chance.


Class privilege is not as inherently hostile as others, and it certainly does not insulate you from them. The richest queer on the street is still a queer and vulnerable to the legal and cultural hurdles before him. The WoC on the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company (if there are any) is still a WoC to the overwhelmingly white men around her. Still, it is very real, and in many ways the most obvious.


It is also the privilege for which we have the most tools to fight, especially in a democracy. We have the power to elect officials that will make sure the weakest among us are protected, to make sure that those to whom society has been kindest pay their fair share (remembering that fair does not mean equal) and that the levers of power are not strictly in the hands of those with the most money.


We have to remember, though, how tempting this privilege can be, and how it exists in degrees. We have to remember our common humanity. Too often those in the middle class, content with what they have and confident they will never lose it rest on what privilege they have, to their detriment and to those with less. As much, if not more than a light-skinned PoC, an upper middle class person can “pass” at least enough to satisfy their emotional and social needs, forgetting how fragile their position is and how to care that others have it so much worse. Which is not to say they hate the poor, it is just harder to actively care when it is not your problem. That, my friends is all privilege in a nutshell.


So the next time you want to complain about your taxes, the next time you want to blame it on the poor, or immigrants, or minorities, think about how actually good you have it, and ask yourself if you really would want to spend even a second in their shoes.



4 thoughts on “Cashing Checks: Head of the Class

  1. Imagining that we envy them is the self flattery of the presently privileged. It is an example of using the presence of their privilege to justify their privilege. They have it therefore they must deserve it.


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