In Where We Stand: Class Matters, bell hooks explores the oft ignored issue of class in American society, especially when overshadowed by the more dominant and seemingly well-delineated issues of race and gender. The first few chapters of the book trace her own journey from a working class African-American upbringing through the sharply racist and classist halls of an Ivy League education. She writes here about the self-sufficiency of her family:
This was a house where nothing was ever thrown away and everything had a use. Crowded with objects and memories, there was no way for a child to know that it was the home of grown-ups without social security numbers and regular jobs. Everybody there was always busy. Idleness and self-sufficiency did not go together. All the rooms in this house were crowded with memories; every object had a story to be told by mouths that had lived in the world a long time, mouths that remembered.
I’ve only just started reading the book, but hooks’ sharp narrative about her experience and the pervasive dismissal of class politics in the US is challenging me to address it more overtly. I’m finding clear connections between her personal narrative about race and class and the work The Think Tank has been undertaking in our Structures of Support project. I think that we need to tackle class politics (as well as race and gender) in a much more direct way with this research in order to unpack the very real power dynamics that impact people’s available support structures.