Kevin O’Neill: They Think We’re All Full Of…

I hoped to get to this subject on the air this morning, but we ran out of time. It’s follow-up to Tuesday’s on-air discussion about the choices voters made last November.

Joan C. Williams, the Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, wrote this Harvard Business Review article almost a year ago. Williams’ recently published book, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America, expands on the topic.

Please take a few minutes to read the article before you continue.

Williams describes a point of view that is not typically represented on the Stocks and Jocks radio show. Keep in mind that the article was published days after the election, so the passages that describe feelings about Trump probably have changed over time. Nevertheless, I believe the overriding themes still apply.

I use the article in a management class. I don’t do political discussion, but I do think it’s important for prospective managers to understand the people who are most likely to be reporting to them in their first supervisor or manager jobs. Because most of the class is product of the working class, the students tend to agree with Williams’ descriptions based on first hand experience. In fact, they tell me that the distinction between white working class and all working class as it pertains to straight talk, political correctness, men’s roles, and resentment of professionals is mostly non-existent.

I’m posting the article today hoping to build an understanding about how people react to news whether it be North Korea, hurricane relief, the shooting spree in Las Vegas, or NFL protests. Williams writes near the end of the article, “But to write off WWC anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.” The point is important, but I think it applies beyond racism. It applied just as easily to claims that the working class is anti-intellectual, sexist, and/or just plain stupid.

Races work side by side in the working class world more than they do in most professional settings. Races serve side by side in the military with a disproportionate number of people serving raised in working class homes. The Venn diagrams of what white, black, Asian, and Hispanic working class people believe and treasure overlap significantly. I think that’s really important to recognize as we dig in our ideological heels while discussing politics. It’s also important to recognize that most working class people think those of us who have advanced degrees and professional careers are all generally full of (poop) regardless of our political leanings.