Wall Street Protest

Over the past couple months, there have been more racially fuelled riots in London.  Now we have demonstrations on Wall Street protesting how the financial elite have decimated the middle and lower classes – the 99%.

It seems curious.  The United States has gone through racial warfare seemingly forever.  Race is what almost all social issues in the US revolve around.  Race has been talked about, written about and protested about.  Virtually every sociologist focuses on race in the US.  We were surprised to find that even in the US application for Social Security, one of the items asked for is Race.  You also get asked whether you are Hispanic or not under the category of Ethnicity (obviously they don’t want to know your ethnicity, only whether you are Latino or not).

On the other hand, class and class structure is more of an anathema in the United States.  One of the basic premises of the US mythology is that there is NO CLASS STRUCTURE.  As a point of pride, it is claimed, that anyone can grow up to be President.  Horatio Alger stories are part of the fabric of the American myth where the poor, underprivileged person rises to importance and riches.  It was the underlying story of the recent “The Social Network” movie as the little guy took on the rich establishment.  In fact, virtually every article about the US that mentions class usually has the word associated with “middle” but not warfare.

The United Kingdom has always been the opposite of this.  Class structure is the central theme of all their sociologists work.  Individuals are labelled by their class origins, by accent, by education, by title, even.  The Elite, upper class, have their own schools, universities, clubs and places to live.

Race in the UK, on the other hand, has seemed to be a marginal issue (except to Stuart Hall and others) in the UK.  But as the colonials started the reverse invasion 40  to 50 years ago, things started to change.

The impetus for change in the United States seems to have been the economic turndown.  The redistribution of wealth in the US started late in the Clinton presidency.  The middle class has been ripped apart.  The rich have gotten rudely rich.  The lower classes, the working class, and the middle class have all lost a lot of ground since then.  When you see who got viscerally hurt by the mortgage meltdown, these are the people.

What has evolved is a much more pronounced “Economic Ruling Class” in the United States.  An aristocracy.  An elite.  People with yachts and estates.  People who can afford to send their children to the top private schools, universities and colleges.  These same schools have priced themselves out of reach for the downwardly sliding middle class.

And let’s not talk about medical care.  The US boasts it has the best in the world.  They are correct, for the Elite.  If you can afford it, you get it.

Back to the UK.  The class structure is still there but many social changes have reduced its impact.  Racial tension has grown to where it is now much more disruptive than class in British society.  The US race problem came from slavery.  The British problem is about reverse colonialism, with immigrants still being seen as inferior because their countries were colonies.

An interesting reversal.  Now the US has to deal with class warfare and the UK has to deal with race warfare.

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