Monday, August 5, 2013

Class Matters: Response 1: Invisibility of Class

Note: This blog entry uses the following texts as a basis for this response.

Chang - "Streets of Gold: The Model Minority Myth"
Lucinda Marshall - "Why Serving in Combat Doesn't Serve Women"
Mantsios - "Rewards and Opportunities"
Zweig - Chapter 2 - What we think when we think about class

These texts are quite important in our understanding and development of what exactly is a class structure. These articles point out how difficult it has become to recognize class problems and after all, how can you examine a problem if you can't find it? These articles are greatly significant in identifying just why class is difficult to see and why no one seems to give a hoot about it.

The theme that these four articles have in common is one that is central to the understanding of the class structure of capitalist USA. In "Streets of Gold", Chang points out that there is a myth about "making it in America" that many Asian-Americans are being held to and that other minorities are being compared to. Chang points out how the Asian-American success stories that had run rampant in the 1980's and 1990's have fueled a sense of racial betterness both in white Americans who look down upon minorities as unsuccessful, lazy, undetermined, etc., as well as in Asian-Americans themselves. Chang examines the myths and stereotypes that Asian-Americans face in terms of the governmental policies which still effect the daily life of these citizens. He comes to the understanding that most people see Asian-Americans as neither a diverse group of oppressed and disadvantaged people due to the misleading financial and educational reports in media, nor people who struggle with different and arguably worse class issues. Instead, Asian-Americans are viewed as the one minority that prooves that anyone can make it in America if they try hard enough. Class issues are often ignored and misdirected towards misleading statistics that show a much different picture than what the public wants to see.

Lucinda Marshall brings up a dilemma with gender that is not often examined as it intersects with class and race. In her piece, Marshall states that although women are now allowed to be in active-combat, not much has changed for the status of women in the military except that they can no be on the front lines. What Marshall points out is that the public misses the fact that many of the women who make up the miltary forces are racial minorities and women (and men) with fewer options. It is known that more lower class and minority people are joining the armed forces for opportunities that are much harder to obtain otherwise (education, income, value, skills, etc.). The armed forces tend to be shaped just like the capitalist/class hierarchy, leaving the power at the top to trickle down. This becomes a problem when we see that there are many problems (i.e. rape, sexual harassment and assault, gender-/racially-based crimes) that are being ignored or not taken seriously. Marshall also mentions that the focus in the armed for4ces takes away money from the social services that serve civilians at home.

Mantsios and Zweig had mirroring ideas about the causes of the invisibility of class. Both articles listed off the concepts of the American Dream that has made it so difficult to look at class as a distinctive identoty rather than a temporary place. The media is also examined as a cause of the continuance of the class structure's ivisibility. Concepts like the idea of upward mobility, consumerism, media coverage, polarization of economic wealth, and the structures of power were all examined closely to explain the continuance of the class structure while it maintained invisibility.

Basically, what seems to happening is a general ignorance to the struggles of the lower, working classes due to the constant push to aspire. The American Dream itself is built on the idea of achievement and betterment, rather than the appreciation of difference. The class you're in determines the amount of value, success, health, and ability to achieve you'll have (compounded by many other factors, obviously). This sense of what the authors refer to as individualism explains why the misconception that those who don't "work hard" don't get ahead is so common. Class structure is invisible because we as a society love to believe it is invisible - it literally is what we make it, what we advertise it to be. Because we don't examine it, there's no problem. Life is a bit easier and the hierarchy (i.e. power dynamic) remains in order to keep each and every one of use in order. The order allows for the cycle of continuance and leaves little room for the reality of the matter.