Does “social class” mean the same thing for all racial and ethnic groups?

Within-race and across-race comparisons correlate race and ethnicity with social class and socioeconomic status. Such correlates illustrate racial and ethnic divides across social class and socioeconomic status; and within social class and socioeconomic status. An instance of racial and ethnic division is, over the years, attention has been placed on the increase and strength and decrease and struggles of the Black middle class. Although there are struggles among the middle class across race and ethnicity, different factors contribute to struggles of Black middle class as compared to white middle class.

There is a recent article about memes of poor and working class Black women. These memes incorrectly depict most poor and working class Black women as not wanting to have a job, overspending, and lazily relying on government assistance.

It is important to note, stereotypes are different than generalizations. Stereotypes are negative assumptions and exaggerations often based on limited observation. There are obvious stereotypes (examples: white people cannot dance and Hispanics are Speedy Gonzales) and stereotypes that are often misinterpreted as compliments (examples: all Black people can dance and Asians are good at math).

Generalizations are used by social scientists (such as myself) to make a well-grounded statement. Generalizations should be based on fact and to offer sound foundation rather than negative assumptions and exaggerations. Generalizations are necessary because there are billions of humans. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate every individual and every “exception”.

Stereotypes are embedded in depictions of poor and working class Black women. With that said, it is no coincidence that poor and working class Blacks are often considered lazy, reliant on welfare, criminals.

Poor and working class whites, however, are often presented as hard working, blue collar workers who are the foundation of society. It is assumed poor and working class whites’ jobs were stolen by “those people” and factories and coal mines were closed or taken away.

As opposed to what Karl Marx believed would occur (uprising of working class/proletariat), the poor and working class have never been able to unite across race and ethnicity and across a range of demographics and cultural divisions. Divisions have existed and persisted throughout U.S. history, including but not limited to Occupy Movement and presidential elections in which poor and working class whites are more likely to align with conservative Republicans (see also: The Original Underclass; No, It’s Not New; Republicans’ White Working Class).

Deirdre Royster, WEB DuBois, Karl Marx (Marx only slightly mentioned race and ethnicity; Marx did not mention gender), and other theorists, researchers, and social activists have captured this in many ways.

Important Note: Poor and working class whites who defy standards of whiteness are sometimes referred as PWT and RN. Acronyms are used because I neither use PWT and RN nor allow students (and anyone else who listens to me) to use PWT and RN. These phrases and words are used quite often to depict whites considered “lesser than”. I particularly tell Blacks not to use these slurs towards whites because these slurs historically and currently reflect how white privilege allows whites to be deemed “pure” and “holier than thou”. That is a partial explanation of why those types of slurs are more harmful towards non-whites than whites — non-whites are not considered “pure” and “holier than thou”, which means it is not deemed surprising when non-whites fail or behave in a negative manner.

This is one of the components of racial and ethnic disparities and divisions. I will write another piece on disparities and divisions within and across social class, socioeconomic status, and other life outcomes.

Results-based trainings, workshops, evaluations, and assessments for local, national, and international K-12 schools, colleges, businesses, and organizations.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.