Students who considered themselves socialists were not so
much interested in the poor as they were desirous of leading
the poor, of being their guides and saviors. It was just this
paternalism toward the poor that the vision of solidarity I had
learned in religious settings was meant to challenge. From a
spiritual perspective, the poor were there to guide and lead the
rest of us by example if not by outright action and testimony.
As a student I read Marx, Gramsci, and a host of other male
thinkers on the subject of class. These works provided
theoretical paradigms but rarely offered tools for confronting
the complexity of class in daily life. […]
[W]hen I told friends and colleagues that I was resigning from my academic job to focus on writing, I was warned that I was making a dangerous mistake, that I could not possibly live on an income that was between twenty and thirty thousand dollars a year. When I pointed to the reality that families of four and more live on such an income, the response would be “that’s different”; the difference being, of course, one of class. The poor are expected to live with less and are socialized to accept less (badly made clothing, products, food, etc.), whereas the well-off are socialized to believe it is both a right and a necessity for us to have more, to have exactly what we want when we want it."