When you think about class structures in America, you tend to only think of one, the middle class. I think about all the times I have heard someone describe themselves, it’s always middle class. I honestly cannot remember a single time when someone has categorized themselves as something else. Even teachers often make the mistake of saying “Well all of you are sitting in a college classroom so it’s safe to assume you are all at least middle class.” However, this is simply not the case. I personally know several people that their families fall under the working poor class and are still able to go to college. Thanks to scholarships, they are able to attend college and sometimes receive some refund to live off of. If not, they find a job and live off of the job.
Why are we stuck as a society believing we are all middle class? One reason is because nobody wants to say or admit they are poor. Being poor has a bad connotation to it, it means you’re either homeless, or just about there. If you can eat a couple meals per day, sleep in a bed at night, or have a car, you can’t be poor. Since the south has the majority of the poorest states, which leads to majority of the poor people, America couldn’t allow the southern people to feel left out, so they created a symbol. It’s called country. If you have pots and pans to catch the rain from the roof, you’re country. If you have to plant a garden instead of buying your groceries, you’re country. Therefore, since you are making it, you are middle class, not poor. Just think of all those homeless people out there. Those are the people we save the term poor for. On the flip side, calling yourself rich is an absolute no-no. There’s always someone out there that can put you to shame so they’re the “rich” ones, not you. That only leaves us with middle class. Believing we are middle class puts our mind at ease. We are able to feel good about ourselves because we are “making it” in the world, but we don’t feel good enough to feel guilty at all the things we can afford.
Politicians, especially, milk this for all its worth. If you had a nickel for every time the term “middle class” was used in campaigning last election, you would be set for life. They do this because it’s the one term that speaks to everyone. If wealth inequality continues to separate as it has in the recent past, America will soon have no middle class. There will be only a rich class and a poor class. Currently the top 20% hold 85% of the nation’s wealth. That just leaves the remaining 80% of people with 15% of the wealth. Granted some American’s are in fact middle class, however the majority of American are not. According to two different polls, the Gallop and Pew, over 50% of American’s would classify themselves as middle class. Until we develop class consciousness, especially southerners, nothing is going to change. We must see through the lie that we have been fooled into believing and change the system. Don’t allow people to tell you it’s acceptable to live below standards just because you “live in the country”. Realistically evaluate yourself and those living around you and get up and do something about it.