I want to hold up something quakermom said in my comments because I want to make sure folks see that I'm not the only one seeing these issues.
I have been thinking a lot about class in my meeting. We're in a university town, and there are many professors in our meeting. In addition, people seem to very uncritically value academic achievement and to buy into standard views of academic standards. i remember when one of the kids in our meeting was accepted to Smith, her mother announced it during Joys and Sorrows, and there was an audible, "Oooh, Smith" through the room. Things like that make me very uncomfortable--do we value less the young man who hasn't gone to college but is apprenticing in carpentry instead? I don't think, if asked, anyone would say so--but we act like we do, and I wonder how that affects our kids.She asks how valuing one kind of education over another affects kids in the Meeting. And that question makes sense. She's a parent and blogs about being a Quaker parent.
We're also in the process of building our meetinghouse, and this has brought issues of money and affluence into view. The number of families who have been able to give $10,000 or more to the meeting for our building has staggered me.
Even though I am a good fit for the meeting in terms of my own class background, current family income, and academic history, I am becoming less and less comfortable in it, in large part because of the way these issues seem largely unacknowledged and unexamined. I've been brining some of them into the light as way opens; we'll see what happens.
I wonder, though, how it affects the adults in our Meeting who haven't/can't/don't meet such a standard of 'excellence'. I wonder how it portrays our values in contrast with what we say our values are. I wonder what the working-class first, second or third-time attender thought when everyone went "oooh." Did they keep coming?
I can tell you how it affects me. I feel shame. Embarassment. I feel like I'm not good enough. I want to hide.
I am therefore uncomfortable with the notion that the choice to work in a creative or intellectual field is an indication of classism.I'm not saying that working in a creative or intellectual field is classist. I'm in school to get my BA in creative writing and intend to work in a creative field. And I don't think that act is inherently classist. I am, however, able to use my current financial privilege to do so. I don't know if I'd be able to do it if I didn't have such privilege. All I'm doing is acknowledging this privilege.
In fact, that's all these posts are asking Friends to do. Look at our individual and collective privilege. Let's make it transparent so that we can be in congruence with what we say we believe, that everyone is equal.
Let's not ooh and ahh over one young Friend's acceptance into Smith without ooh-ing and ahh-ing over another Friend's choice to learn a trade or go to a less elite institution. Let's not assume that every Friend we come into contact with has a college education, or even wants one.
Last but not least, lets figure out how to dismantle this system that favors the financially privileged.
Finally, Thee Hannah wrote:
Which begs the question: If you feel isolated at meeting because of your working-class background, what are you doing to educate the rest of us?Hmmmm. That sure sounds like you're expecting me to undo a system I didn't create and a system that oppresses me but not you.
I'm writing this blog which is being read by lots and lots of people. But I'm just one person and one person has never been able change an oppressive system without allies.
So what are you doing to educate other Quakers who have privilege? How are you going to be an ally?