George Graham

Talk of an “Underclass” Shows You Have No Class

I was taught that America was a classless society, in which “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.”  That was then, I guess, and this is now.

In a society based on class, all men are not created equal. Some are born into wealth and privilege; others are trapped in the same subservient level of society as their parents and grandparents.

America is increasingly becoming a society based on this type of caste system. An elite class has acquired the bulk of the nation’s wealth and passes it on to their children, while those born into the lower castes have less and less chance of climbing the ladder of success. In such a society, the lower classes are not only oppressed, they are also regarded with contempt.

But there is another way of thinking about “class.”

In Jamaica, for example, you are “low class” if you behave badly, are aggressive and uncouth, and have no regard for the feelings of others. My mother used to say that “respectable” people are temperate and trustworthy – and, above all, considerate.

It didn’t matter so much if you were rich when I was growing up in Jamaica. People who behaved badly were not “respectable.” They were “low class.” And they were usually shunned by “respectable people,” regardless of their wealth.

My mother would not consider former Virginia congressman Tom Davis “respectable.”

Davis was so oafish as to tell Chris Matthews on MSNBC-TV last night that President Obama owes his re-election to “underclass minorities.”

Salon’s editor at large Joan Walsh, also a guest on Matthews’ show, pointed out that the term “underclass” is “out-of-touch.”  But the “Hardball” host tried to defend Davis. In his usual bumbling style, Matthews said (with an appropriately sheepish grin):

He’s a good guy, he’s a good guy, Susan — I mean Joan. Thank you, Joan Walsh, I’m just trying to help him out a little bit here, he came on the show, he’s nice enough to do that — you’re always going to be here.

I beg to differ with Chris Matthews. Tom Davis is not a “good guy.”

He is a snob who was repeating the latest myth being promoted by the Republican Party. According to this story, Mitt Romney scored some kind of victory in the presidential election because he got the most votes from households earning at least $50,000 a year. In a Washington Post op-ed, Romney aide Stuart Stevens wrote:

On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters.

It is this plutocratic attitude that lost the election for Romney, an attitude to which he was blind, an attitude that his aides and allies obviously share.

Click here for the Stevens op-ed.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com