Joe and I are on a Quaker listserve together and I posted something about class with a link to this blog. He visited and left this comment on my What Privilege Do You Have? post, and I thought I'd add it here as a guest post because I want there to be a variety of Quaker voices on my blog as well as mine.
He raises an interesting question about how to talk to Friends about class because I've faced similar reactions. Joe is very good at listening and has a big heart. He's also not as pissed off as I am; or, at least he doesn't come across as angry as I appear. I'm currently considering offering an interest group on class at FGC's summer Gathering on social class, but I'm not sure what to do or how to do it. I don't want to be the one to do it, but it keeps getting thrown up in my face (more on this in a later post). And I don't know how to talk about it without pissing people off. Even one Friend who says she grew up working class gets really really pissed at me when I talk about my own experiences and suggest they might apply to other working class people.
But enough from me and about me. Here's Joe's comment:
Gee, Jeanne. Read your post on the listserver and then followed the link here. Looked at the class game and found I could say yes to only 2 things on the list. Brought back lots of memories of growing up on welfare, having the police come to the house on a regular basis because of the domestic violence, and visiting my mother in the state psychiatric institute.
Now that I'm an all-growed-up college professor it's hard to look back and remember how tough it was to grow up poor and gay. And I don't know about you, but I still wonder sometimes if it isn't all about to come crashing down on my head. When I buy groceries, I still think with some relief that at least I can last another month. I can still clearly recall what was in the commidity foods welfare package each month. It's totally ridiculous considering how much money I make now, but I find it difficult not to wonder when I'll wind up in jail or on the streets.
I guess I come from a working-class family, but even that term is deceptive. My father worked when he could. He was an unskilled laborer who could neither read or write (he used to take me around on job interviews to fill out his applications, hiding me in the car so no one would know). His union took as much advantage of him as his employer. Both saw him as simply someone to make money from.
I think the hardest thing about being a Quaker now is the class thing. I am certainly in sync with the spirituality, but Quakers still don't understand me when I try to talk with them about their sense of entitlement. It was the most difficult thing about being a regional director for the AFSC. That sense of entitlement used to drive me up the wall. Even some of my deepest friendships in Quakerdom don't understand me when I attempt to talk about it.
When I do try to talk about it I find Friends getting defensive or guilty and totally missing the point. They shouldn't have to defend themselves or feel guilty, but to seek to have an honest discussion of class privilege. I try desperately to not send out accusations or guilt trips, but I still haven't found a way to do it.
Anyway, thanks for this blog. Now that I know it's here, I'll check in often.