Saturday, April 23, 2016

Social Justice Event

Speech Given By: Barbara Jensen
Date: March 16th, 2016
Time: 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Alger 110

A few weeks back , I attending a public speaker at Rhode Island College for my social justice event. Her name is Barbara Jensen. Barbara has been teaching and talking about classism for many many years now. She taught this topic in universities and is very passionate about it. The overall topic of her studies is the working class studies in the United States. She travels all around and speaks to groups of people to help everyone get more informed. She is also a licensed community and counseling psychologist. She's had practice for over 25 years and even has her own private counseling office. There, she works with individuals, couples, families and takes on some community projects. Her therapies include psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, as well as art, music and drama. After hearing her speak in person, she is very moving and that material she brings up is very true. It made the whole presentation a good and interesting to listen to.
Within the first couple minutes of her presentation, she asks for ten volunteers. Once she had all the volunteers up at the front of the room, they each had a seat in one of the seats that were lined up against the wall. In this visual approach to help us understand better, each chair represented 10% of the United States population. After statistical facts, she asked 9 of the volunteers(starting from the left) to all go and fit on the first 3 chairs starting from the left. Interesting to watch because here there was, 9 grown college students sitting on each other to all fit on 3 chairs. For the student on the furthest right chair , so the 10th chair, he was asked to spread out to cover 7 chairs. He could lay, sit, put pieces over the chair to claim that it was it. He just had to someway or another cover the chairs. This activity was to show how the top 10% of the United States population own more than 70% of the entire wealth in the US. Having that cover 70% of the wealth, that means there is only 30% of wealth in the US left and that is to be spread among the 90% of the population. That means, "Moreover, of the top 10 percent, one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined."(Barbara Jensen) That's absolutely crazy to me. That numbers are so off. I was shocked by these numbers even though I already knew that there is obviously people who are extremely wealthy out there. I guess I just didn't think 10% really own that much wealth.

Handouts That Were Given at the Entrance:
All written by Barbara Jensen.

(1)Forms of Classism 
* Solipsism ("blinders")
* Judgements of "taste"("good taste" or "bad")
* Cruelty (intentionally insulting or hurting others)
*Systemic advantages and disadvantages 
(constraint and submission vs blossoming and "becoming")

(2)Distance, Resistance, and Creation 
Responses of working class students to the cultural conflicts schools may create.
Distancing (from family)
Resisting (in school/work)
Creating ( bridging them)
*Identify with “others”
*Keep your people
*Scrambling between worlds
*Internalized classism
*Leave talents undeveloped
*Getting “walked on” by both sides- belonging nowhere
*Separation from friends and family (emotionally)
*Get respect for defiance
*Conscious of process, of different worlds
*Hard and tedious work life ahead
*Able to take aspects from both cultures(more whole)
*Compartmentalization & dissociation – problems in psyche, marriage, other?
*Personal shame covered with anger and defiance(because society’s judging you)
*Help others bridge between worlds also
No "best" option without fundamental changes in social and economic organization of society. 

(3) Divisions in the Working Class:
"Settled Living " & "Hard Living" Differences 

Settled Living
Hard Living
More likely called "middle class"(and not think of self that way), but considered not ambitious or smart enough to really "make it”.
More likely called “poor”, “underclass”, “welfare queens”, “riff-raff”, or “gangsters”. (though statistics show they are likely to work when they can)
Middle class sees them as: boring, uncultured, and unenlightened.
Middle class sees them as: alternately frightening and alien or pathetic, even comically so.
Either try to fit in or be defiant.
Can’t fit in: be defiant or shameful.
Stereotype is that they are white skinned (reality is both).
Stereotype is that they are people of color (reality is both).
More likely to be against welfare (more so than middle class): it’s too close to home)
More likely to have received welfare-currently losing that safety net.
More likely, in hard times, to be able to borrow money, cars from family and friends.
More likely to have friends and family also in hard times, still share generously.

* Value belonging/connection over individuality.
*Value connection and interdependence over competition.
*Looked down upon by the middle class.
*Regarded by "higher" classes as lazy, stupid, crappy parents, "low" life, "nobodies".
*Get blamed personally for their "lower" status.
*Invisible (to other classes, sometimes themselves as well) as they really are.
*Get seen as stereotypes -- become psychological "projections" of "higher" classes.
*Use non-standard English, learn this as children is "normal".
*In speech tend toward personal narrative rather than producing abstract answers, conceptualizations, questions.
*Likely (esp. adolescents) to get admiration form peers for defiance against middle class teachers and other authorities.
*Likely to embarrass parents with same.
*Values: generosity (as opposed to brilliance), being "kind-hearted" (as opposed to ambitious), being "good"(as opposed to "successful").

(4) Gifts to Human Ability from Either Side of the Class Border
It is important to remember that all people of any class can have any of these abilities. They tend to be emphasized in one class more than the other. They are all human qualities to which we are all entitled. All these qualities are parts of the human spirit.

Middle Class
* Uniqueness
*Development of inner life
* Voice, language "the words to say it"
*Achievement, ambition and progress
*Science, Architecture
*Development of certain abilities: intellectual detail and meta-thought; differentiated language.

Working Class
*Connectedness and sense of belonging to personal and human family
*Depth of acceptance
*Connectedness to all of life, seasons, earth
*Ability to see and hear beyond words
*Stability and tradition
*Development of certain indispensable abilities: cooperation , mechanical skills, basic life support skills (shelter,food)

(end of handout information)

This presentation I went to really made me think if I am able to notice the different levels of class in my day to day life. I wouldn't say that it stands right out to me but I understand the concept a little more so I notice more. Jensen spent time talking about what different classes looked like and she used a personal story to explain it. She told the story about how she went to two different, I can't remember if it was communion or confirmation party, but she went to one that was for a child in a higher income home and then went to one for a family member which was a working class one. She talked about the differences but was also able to talk about even though she knew she fit to one class more then the other, she knew how to act like she belonged to both. The party environment was different when it came down to the kind of conversation, what everyone was wearing, what kind of food was being offered, the way everyone talked, the kind of activities that were going on for the guest and how differently the party meant to each child. I enjoyed hearing these stories because I was able to say, oh yea I can see that and relate. I can really relate to this with my family vs my boyfriend's family. Obviously there's nothing wrong with each family, there are just significant differences. With my family, we had parties and get togethers just for the fun of it. At the parties, we have the big thing of juice, a cooler of soda, a cooler of beer, the kind of food you make on the grill like cheeseburgers, hotdogs and things like that. We dress however we want to and no one is really expected to look nice nice. We are so loud and we play the most random music and we just kind of yell , dance and get get along really nice. I see the difference when I go to a get together at my boyfriends house because right off the back, I know if I show up in yoga pants and a sweatshirt I would feel out of the loop. I'll usually put on jeans and a nice shirt but most of the time I still feel underdressed. I wouldn't say I see a huge difference with the kind of food and drinks that they would have but I see difference when I think about how the noise level is different. At his house, everyone will be kind of in little groups, at their own tables and just conversing with a couple people at a time. I guess it's almost like everything is organized and I'm not really use to that. Both types of parties are fun, just are different types of parties/ get togethers that better fit with people.

Things Barbara Jensen talked about related right back to our class and I found it interesting. Jensen talked about how in our society it really does matter where you come from/who you are surrounded by. We're judged by stereotypes and because maybe your parents didn't do anything extra important, there's no hope for you because it's all a cycle. That's the big problem cause theses classism groups. When we read Kozol, we talk about the cycle and the likely hood of one getting breaking out from the cycle. Yes it's possible but the chances are slim. Working class parents who work working class jobs will have working class kids who will have working class kind of jobs and then have kids who do the same thing. Same thing goes for other social classes. It's like a never ending them and this relates to what Jensen says because that is the restriction that is put on people. The get stereotyped by their past and family, but that doesn't need to label them for what they will accomplish in the future. This can also relate to a quote from Nicholas Kristof's U.S.A., A Land of Limitations, " The chance of a person who was born to a family in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution rising to the top 10 percent as an adult is about the same as the chance that a dad who is 5 feet 6 inches tall having a son who grows up to be over 6 feet 1 inch tall, It happens, but not often." These restrictions are put on everyone in society everyday and that helps from the division between classes. From on of Jensen's handouts that she gave at the entrance of this presentation, she gives one out that explains the differences from settled living and hard living. (In Above, Green Text) One of the bullet points says the it is a stereotype that people of color always have to fall into the hard living category. I though SCWAAMP at this because the W means whiteness and stands for how much we value it. If people of color were valued more in the U.S., they wouldn't always fit into the hard living category. It's the stereotypes and restrictions put on by society. This can also relate to McIntosh because McIntosh says that there's privilege that white people have and I think this relates because they have to power to speak up and change classism but don't because they either don't want to or don't realize the power/ privilege they have.

Lastly, I want to bring attention to Barbara Jensen's book.

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