For her book, Uneasy Street: Anxieties of the Affluent, Sociologist Rachel Sherman interviewed wealthy New Yorkers to explore privilege, inequity, and class. I recently listened to her discuss her research on the Vox Conversations podcast and it was fascinating. Here’s a bit that’s stuck with me:
“In a way, as long as we have bad rich people we can also have good rich people. And then as long as we have good rich people, it means the system is okay and the problem with the bad rich people is that they’re morally bad or greedy or spendy… it’s then very difficult to draw attention to the inequalities of the system.”
Rachel discusses the morality we assign the social classes, the narratives we have around rich people (i.e. what it means to be a “good” or “bad” rich person), and the importance of white people confronting their unearned privilege.
I’m all for systemic critique and analysis on wealth inequality. It’s so important that those of us who have wealth—or who have benefited from systems that make it easier to accumulate wealth—acknowledge that rather than be afraid to talk about it. Living in and from fear won’t change the system for the better, it never has.
Own your story. And see if you can use your financial stability to create financial stability for others.