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Working With Class

Posted January 11th, 2011 by mclaugke

My battle for the last couple of weeks has been around my social class. Looking back on my past, I realize that my experience growing up contains polar opposite dimensions of social class.  I grew up with a family that consisted of a mother, brother, and stepfather. All of us lived in a manufactured home park.  We seemed to barely scratch by every week.  There were a couple of times that we couldn’t afford electricity or water and would have to go to the YMCA to take a shower.  When I was younger, I remember my parents moving cars from place to place in fear that they would be repossessed.  We actually had a boat and a truck repossessed by the bank.

This lifestyle affected me at school as well.  Since we didn’t have a lot of money, I only had a couple of shirts that had to make it through the week.  Normally, I would wear the same pants twice or maybe even three times a week.  I was teased and ridiculed. I remember a friend asking me, “Hey Kam, do you know that you live in a trailer park?” With this background, I would identify as lower or working class.

However, the flip side would be what my extended family was able to provide me.  I have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who are all in upper-middle to upper class.  They have taken me on trips to Disney Land, Mexico, and China. They provided me with designer brand clothing, given me a loan to buy a car, and much more.  They are able to provide me with the opportunity to access wealth.  Similarly, I lived with my girlfriend’s family because my mom and stepfather were going through a divorce.  They live in upper-middle class, and I had complete access to all the benefits that they received from having that identity.  Most importantly, with all these connections, I have gained the ability to live fluently in a upper-middle class environment.

I am still struggling with this.  I don’t know if to identify as upper-middle class or lower-working class.  Although with my immediate family I experienced lower-working class life, my extended family provided me with access to wealth and the lifestyle that came with it.  For example, at my girlfriend’s house, I usually wash dishes with soap and water until they are virtually clean before placing them in the dishwasher because I don’t have a dishwasher that worked very well. This is my clash with owning the identity of middle class or working class, and I am still working through it today.

Kameron Beeks

Community Relations Facilitator – Eastside/RHA and Co-Op Liaison
www.oregonstate.edu/diversity_initiative/crf

The comments shared by the Community Relations Facilitator program are strictly the point of view from the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of UHDS. If this article has inspired a desire to dialogue, the author, another CRF, and/or any Resident Assistant, Cooperative Director, or Resident Director would be happy to participate. Please contact (Victor.Santana-Melgoza@oregonstate.edu), UHDS Multicultural Resource Coordinator, to assist in making arrangements.

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