Social Class in the United States

634 words | 3 page(s)

Social class is a group of people that enjoy similar economic conditions, political or cultural status. However, the definition of the term is riddled with ambiguity. According to the video documentary, People Like Us, social class is differently understood by Americans. Social class in the documentary is defined by one’s choice of dressing, mannerisms, looks, home, schooling, language, shopping habits et cetera. At the beginning of the documentary, interviewees base their perception of class o the choice of dressing. A man dressed in a vest and high waist shorts is considered a low class or blue collar by many of the respondents.

The same respondents expressed different opinions on being shown the photo of a man in a crisp white shirt and a woman in a sleeveless turtleneck with pearls. To them, the two look wealthy or upper class (Alvarez, 2001). The video documentary also shows different scenarios with some of the respondents proudly associating with golf as a sport for the wealthy. In other instances, social class is seen through the ability to sustain a personal state in things like fashion, housing et cetera. It thus suffices that social class is fueled by means or ways of defining one’s lifestyle choices effortlessly which boils down to money or finances.

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Social class as portrayed has implications on the people as denoted in the video documentary. Social class influence’s people desire to achieve in America. Those born in poor backgrounds always focus on attaining a better class through sheer hard work. Social class also creates a sense of pride among individuals occupying a certain status. For instance, in the documentary, the rednecks are proud to be called rednecks while union members have a sense of belonging while picketing for their rights. The adverse implications of social class are it creates self-esteem issues and inherent hate.

The rich and the poor have a fear of each other. For instance, in the video, the rich are depicted as individuals that are keen on having defined social and economic structures that will alienate them from the poor e.g. education, leisure activities, clothes, transport, food et cetera (Alvarez, 2001). It also creates self-esteem issues among individuals that continue fighting with peer pressure at old age. Due to social class, everybody is worried on how the others perceive them. It is a daily struggle to fit in a society that is founded on materialism.

There are various obstacles one faces when shifting classes in America. One faces the problem of blending in. According to the video documentary, one has to know “which fork to use, which name to drop or which vintage to drink” (Alvarez, 2001). Shifting classes also bring about feelings of limitations which are captured by Ginie Polo Sayles confessions in the documentary. She cites that her first visit to a clubhouse with her girlfriend she realized that trying to fit in was too demanding and reminded her of what she knew or didn’t. It also demands that you become observant of a class that you want to occupy.

One always has to be alert in order not to relay wrong signals that may show that he or she does not belong to a certain class. Shifting classes in some situations may make one be dubbed as a sell-out (Alvarez, 2001). Especially in the black communities, black privileged individuals face harsh judgment from their fellow community members. They are faced with accusations of acting white or forgetful of whom they are as individuals. Charles Giles in the documentary confesses that he has been insulted many times due to his choice not to settle for less. His desire for more is seen as a foreign attitude for somebody of his ethnicity.

  • Alvarez, L., & Kolker, A. (Directors). (2001). People like Us: Social Class in America [Motion picture]. US: PBS.

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