Classism examined as part of MLK Dream Week
February 14, 2023
February 14, 2023
The question was part of a larger conversation led by Layne and sponsored by the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement on February 8 called “American Class and Classism,” during the third annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Week. The event examined the topic of class and its impact in America, including the widening of the wealth gap and its impact on communities of color.
The theme of this year’s MLK Dream Week was “standing your power” and aimed to explore large issues within American systems and institutions that often require courage to address.
“Plant seeds today and water them tomorrow,” said Layne while describing the continuous work of social justice. “The things you talk about in this room today may not resonate with you as deeply as they will tomorrow, but always carry with you what you learn and continue to do so and water that seed.”
Layne also encouraged the community to listen to one another and keep an open mind when hearing about others’ thoughts or personal experiences.
“There is this idea of a 4:1 ratio that I stole from my mother: You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth for a reason. This means you should create more space for others and listen more rather than try to take over a given conversation. I’ve always loved that idea, especially being one of seven children,” said Layne.
After giving an overview, Layne started the conversation by showing a video called, “MLK on Poverty in America,” which explained the “Poor People’s Campaign” in 1968 and how many camped out in Washington.
“This seems so long ago but this was almost the 70s,” said Layne. “We keep seeing class show up in different ways throughout history and things have not changed that much since back then.”
After the conversation, students and faculty members focused on what can be done at the individual level to battle this systematic oppression many communities face daily.
“The individual can fight classism by honoring intersectionality, spreading education, engaging in interactions, leveraging privilege and openly having conversations about class even though it can be uncomfortable,” said Layne. “In the same token, voting is very important and being aware of policies, fighting for meritocracy, increasing voter registration and giving support to oppressed groups.”
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