People Like Us

The PBS documentary People Like Us illuminates a lot of interesting points about class in America. It explains how we organize ourselves into “tribes” based on similar interests and levels of income. These tribes do not remain static over the course of our lives. As we grow and change, the members of our tribe also change. We join new tribes and leave old ones. More often than not these tribes are based on race and income level. Interestingly, Americans, while living in this dynamic class structure, refuse to acknowledge that it exists; clinging hopelessly instead to the false ideal of “American Equality” endlessly perpetuated by socialization.

An important theme discussed throughout the video was whether or not a person could move from one class to another. This is the idea of moving between social stratifications. While I believe that anyone can move between different classes, because things are only impossible until they’re not, it is very difficult and often the exception to the rule. The social class in which you are raised is such an integral part of your early socialization, it makes it extremely difficult to change those ingrained habits and beliefs to match those of a person raised in a higher (or even lower) class.

I think the ultimate lesson to be learned from this movie is that class, like time and the truth, is relative. We see what we are taught to see. Through the glasses of socialization, formed during childhood, we are conditioned with a view of the world that will forever control how we fit into it.

Class is experienced relative to the person observing it.