Manifestation of Hidden Classism in Social Movements - TASHA JOSEPH

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

An observation I made in the recent social movements was, the surfacing of underlying economic inequalities among people. In the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, we see supporters across races, ethnicities and nationalities urging the U.S Government to take action. Yet when it comes to people across classes, we see more people from lower classes and middle classes taking to the streets to voice out their demands, even in the midst of a pandemic. The upper echelons in the society also support the cause but, this continues from their webs of safety and comfort in their abodes. A generalization stating that all members of the upper crust participate in this manner would be too fallacious, yet to claim that the majority engage in such participation would not be improper.

The class differences between people from different backgrounds surfaces in times of involvement by the citizenry. This prevailing economic disparity results in the least affluent taking to the streets and physically furthering the cause. This is because the idea of staying at home, no longer conveys ‘safety’ from the social virus that is pervasive since the period when slavery was considered acceptable and lawful in the U.S. The underprivileged in the Black and White community have mobilised and paraded on the streets in desperation of reform in the justice system and law enforcement process. They see their participation as vital to bring about change and seem willing to put their health at risk even during the outbreak of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the rich and affluent continue to stay within the secure confines of their homes and express their support because they can afford to refrain from physical engagement in a cause which does not impinge on economic privilege. As long as they are assured of their economic privilege, they see no requirement of their direct participation and involvement in the movement. They use other means of displaying support by donation of funds and management of their personal accounts on social media. All these acts would rightly constitute ‘performative wokism’ to avoid the backlash from the masses for staying allegedly ‘silent’ and complicit in the fight against establishment, injustices in law enforcement and acts of brutality.

In my opinion, this form of activism runs through the affluent classes and can be considered as a kind of economic privilege exercises by people of different backgrounds including race. It reveals a hidden manifestation of ‘Classism’ in social movements. By insulating themselves on several virtual platforms, from the needs of a protest and from the fight for equality, their acts defeat the purpose of coming out and showing support in overwhelming numbers. The responsibility that comes with enormous social capital requires the eminent and wealthy must not be waived off. Acts of performative wokism cannot effectively substitute physical engagement and do not necessarily help in achieving the demands with people taking refuge in their homes. Thus, to fight from a distance is a privilege enjoyed by a certain minority in this, and other several social movements all over the world.

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