Let’s Talk About ClassNovember 13, 2009 Leave a comment
One of the most intense and unique pieces of the Making Money Make Change (MMMC) conference, is the Money Stories session. Picture a room with 70 young people with wealth (accumulated, inherited, or earned) and/or owning class privilege sitting in a large circle. Each person gets 60 seconds to “tell their money story.” Questions that guide this storytelling include:
- Where did the money that you and/or your family come from?
- How is your or your family’s wealth connected to histories of racism and capitalism?
- What have you done to move some or all of that money to social justice movements?
I have been a part of this circle for the past three years and have found this task scary, challenging, and powerful. For young people with wealth who are often encouraged by their families to keep all information related to money private, and who are living in a society where the systems that create such gross wealth disparity are rarely discussed, the simple act of telling the truth about these histories in a public setting is no small thing.
Last year was the first time that folks who do not identify as wealthy or owning class, who are at MMMC as partners of participants, as workshop presenters, or as speakers sat in for the Money Circle session and listened to these stories of accumulated wealth and class privilege for an hour and a half, but did not speak. Needless to say, this was an experience that brought up difficult emotions for everyone and we ended the session without a space for making meaning of it, sharing reactions, or having an intentional and productive cross-class dialogue.
This year the space will be structured differently, and in preparing for it, a number of questions are coming up that I’m curious about and would love to know your thoughts on.
- Is it possible, or even desirable, to attempt to establish a “no judgment zone” or a “safe space” for cross-class storytelling about money, class, and wealth?
- What are best practices for creating spaces for productively uncomfortable spaces for people with multiple class backgrounds to speak truthfully and go deep with each other?
- If you were to tell your “money story” (whatever your class background) in a public setting, which pieces of your story would you leave out or include based on the class backgrounds of the others in the room? What would help you to be both vulnerable and feel supported?
- What are the conversations about money, wealth, and class that you’ve never had and would like to have with colleagues? With friends?
I believe there is great potential for this kind of raw storytelling. It can expose the truths about our personal experiences and about our collective realities and it can facilitate relationship-building from a space we honor each others’ humanity. It’s messy, but let’s step into it.
Some groups, other than MMMC, that I know of who work on cross-class dialogue: