Incarceration Nation

Classism in America

By Kevin Cooper

As the late Malcolm X once stated: “It’s not just about racism, it’s also about the Haves and the Have Nots!”

While it’s true that racism is one of the major factors that has had, and is still having, a negative effect on the quality of life within this country of many people, class and classism is having just as big, and in some cases, a larger part in the wholesale oppression of people in this world, and especially in a capitalistic society such as America.

Stop and think of these few facts:

  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being denied an abortion, and or any other type of medical procedure, no matter what the laws are. It’s only the Have Nots that have these worries!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about police brutality, or being shot in the back by the cops. This is the plight of the Have Nots though!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being sent to Death Row and Executed. Yet this is the history of the Have Nots when it comes to capital punishment in America!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being denied a quality education, or going to the school of their choice. But for the Have Nots, not even affirmative action is enough to ensure that they can get any type of a education, let alone a quality one!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being denied or not being able to find a job. Not in this “good ole boy” country where it’s not what you know, but who you know, or who your parents know, that makes all the difference. Yet for the Have Nots finding, getting, and keeping a job seems more like an act of God than a human right!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being disenfranchised because their votes seem to be all that’s wanted and all that matters in this system. However, the Have Nots have been disenfranchised ever since people began voting, and even recently, the U.S. Supreme Court helped to further disenfranchise the Have Nots by taking away key parts of the 1964 voting rights law!
  • The Haves don’t have to worry about being oppressed. After all, it is some of them and their kind who continually oppress the Have Nots in every which way that they can.
  • The Haves don’t have to protest for their rights, and at times it seems that their money and influence guarantees them that their rights will be protected no matter what the cost. On the other hand, the Have Nots not only have to protest for their rights on an ongoing basis; they have to protest for their constitutional right to protest!

Historically speaking, when it comes to what those who “have” have experienced, and what those who have not have experienced, the Haves should be ashamed of themselves!

Yet you can’t shame people who have no shame! Nor can you make people moral who have no morals! We don’t hate the Haves for having what they have. No, and if we do hate them, it’s for what they do with what they have! Especially when it’s used to oppress the Have Nots and to wage war on Mother Earth and the different people who inhabit Earth!

I could go on and on and on about how the Haves treat, or mistreat, the Have Nots. But, the bottom line is this: Until Classism is acknowledged in this country, we will continue to have a country that is divided upon and amongst itself—one that is “separate and unequal” in all aspects of life!

—September 2013

Write to Kevin Cooper at:

Kevin Cooper C-65304, 4 EB 82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974