Since the beginning of time, people have been categorized. The broadest category that everyone seems to fit into was a ‘social class’ category. Over time, and within different cultures, the definition of each class and what put you there has varied. For some cultures it was due to money, some it was a matter of race, and others a matter of immigration. Really, any type of social location could put a certain person into a certain class. As sociologists, we know the most important fundamentals of culture. Those fundamentals being: culture is learned and shared, and varies across time and place. That being said, we can deduce that our culture today has made our social class system what it is, based on what we have learned from other (much older) cultures. So I think the big question here is, why do we put people into social class systems? I firmly believe social classes help to define people and help a society function. Unfortunately, money defines who we are and in our society today, money (how much we have and how much we make) puts us into the classes we are in.
Money rules us. It buys us nice cars, nice clothes, and nice houses. You wouldn’t put Kim Kardashian and a homeless man in the same social class, would you? Of course not. You’ve been taught that how much money a person has, puts them into the social class they ‘belong’ in. So Kim would be put into the Elite class, and the homeless man would be put into the poor class. From day one, we have been taught that we each belong somewhere. As a child, I remember being confused. We have these social classes, but everyone is supposed to be equal? That doesn’t make much sense. However, I have since come to realize that as a society, we do the things we do because it is what we have been taught to do. The town I live in is primarily a lower-middle class town, with a few families being middle class, and a few families being lower class. My family is one of the few upper-middle class families in this town of less than ten thousand people. So personally, I was quite often reminded of my family’s money in a not so nice way. Jealousy is an emotion often aroused in teenagers, but high school was hard no matter how well I dealt with the kids who made me feel bad. All they saw were the nice clothes I wore and the nice car I drove to school. They didn’t see how hard both of my parents worked each and every day. My passionate Republican side says that everyone gets what they work for. I think that’s the issue with people today. They so desperately want something; they just aren’t willing to work for it. The same goes for social classes; people don’t want to be in the lower class anymore, but they really don’t do much to earn the money to put them in a different class. Like I stated earlier, money defines who we are.
Along with money, I feel as though racism has been a leading factor of putting people into different classes. Often times, the media will tell you a story of a murder committed by a black man, but they won’t tell you about the crimes committed of a white man. The media and movies have taught us that black people are always the ones to get in trouble. With the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Act, you would have thought that racism would have ended, but I do believe it is still alive today. For example, if a white woman and an Asian woman go to interview for the same job, the white woman is more likely to get the job. However, if a man and a female go in for the same job (no matter the race), the man will most likely get the job.
The biggest factors defining social class are income and wealth. To give you an example of social class inequality, in the workplace, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents. Potentiall, this puts any single father in a high social standing compared to a single mother. Also, the median household income is around $52,000 per year. From everything she does (clothing line, video game, makeup line, photo shoots, etc.), Kim Kardashian has stated she made roughly $28 million this year. Hardly seems fair. But then again, the famous quote goes, “Life isn’t fair.”
The problem is that the money in the US isn’t distributed equally; and I agree, it isn’t! I must warn you, Republican is going to come out of my mouth again. It irritates me to no end when I see a person panhandling on the side of the road. So my solution to those people is: instead of wasting your time making a few bucks on the side of the road, go to a place like McDonalds which hires all of the time, and make more money working there. Everyone has to start somewhere. It might be a crappy place like McDonalds, but it’s a start. Typically, people tend to stay in the same social class their whole lives, but any change you want to make, you have to work for it.
Social classes are unfair, a double-edged sword, if you will. However, in order to have a classless society, people would need to love themselves, and love thy neighbor. Knowing history, that will never happen. So for now, I think we as a society need to deal with the social class system and work towards a more loving society in general.
Here is a humorous video about social class from 1957:
Here is a stereotypical explanation of social class: