Solidarity refers to the union of interests, sympathies, purposes among members of a particular group. Charity implies a foundation, established to aid the community; it also means kind and lenient attitude towards people. Bell Hooks’ book Where We Stand: Class Matters is admired by a lot of writers and the critics. In her work, the author touches the problem of class boundaries between the poor and the rich. She compares the class with an elephant in the room, indicating that the class has contributed immensely to the cultural conflicts present in the world. Americans in general associate a black face with poverty, considering that most of the rich people in America are white. This is marked with irony. The paper will specifically seek to analyze the concept of solidarity vs. charity as it is presented in the book by Bell Hook. My point of argument will be focused on how solidarity and charity have impacted on people’s lives.
Hook repeatedly asserts that the power, created by wealth, helps to keep the poor people more poor (Hook 12). The people who have money gain power to oppress others. That is why Bell Hooks states that wealthy whites and wealthy black Americans are all in the same social class. Hook makes a journey to class consciousness and raises the issues of personal and national responsibility (Hook 16).
Hook thinks that the topic of class is not discussed in public by the poor and rich. She believes that silences concerning class hierarchy cause a lot of complex situations to Americans. She has studied the topic for a long time through social observation and personal experience. The book, which addresses class issues in the American society, became the result of her work. Where We Stand: Class Matters has incorporated the views of different scholars, writers, economists, feminists and sociologists.
The chapter Coming to Class Consciousness is deeply personal. This is the line which refers to the family of the author. The writer learnt much about money from her family and community. She says that the Christian church provided her with the values that prevent from becoming greedy (Hook 24). Bell Hooks also learnt to respect the poor and honour their right to identification in the society. This is a show of solidarity with the poor. The majority of families in the United States have shunned away from regular temple and church attendance. It indicates that such families lack the values, which the author was taught by the church and community when she was a child (Hook 32). Most families in America no longer identify themselves with the poor and downtrodden and that gives way to class hierarchy.
Hook has integrated personal stories so that the situations presented are close to the reader. She asserts that the social class is a taboo in a polite society. The rich are seen through the class position. An interview, taken with one of the richest person in the society, proved that the rich are happy with the power (Hook 38). The interviewee acknowledged that the power, given by money, made him more influential than others. The power of wealth enabled him to order the poor ; ordinarily, he could not have done that. The rich are identified with the social class which is characterized by the politics of greed. They are also seen as the group, which discriminates the poor.
The practice of religion in the society has lost its obligatoriness and became less spread. Researchers note that today, greed, godlessness and willingness of acquiring fast wealth are typical of young professional and youths (Hook 42). Nevertheless,a positive change seems to take place, as American people have noted that itis much easier to gain wealth and money that acquire ethics and values.
The majority of people often use the name of God as a tool for receiving wealth. Bell Hooks also raises the topic of the American illegal drug industry and gangster rappers. The culture of today’s youths is rotten in its nature because of money and fame. The author points out that America has a high cost of living. At the same time, she asserts that the country is hindered by class and race issues. The class problem has penetrated deep into the black community (Hook 48). On the other hand,feminists ignore class issues, emphasizing the necessity of equality with men.
Considering poverty, Hook compares the plight of the black community with ghetto. She remarks that “ghetto” was a word, used to identify the poor white people. In solidarity with the poor, Hook discusses the role of drug trade and the function of the mass media as a system. The class in the American society is reality. Charity is not an appropriate solution to the problem of racism in America. Solidarity can eliminate racism and class differences. It implies that all people must appreciate one another and turn to God. Solidarity is able to promote widespread social changes.
The author touches the question of white-supremacists. She says that the ideas of whites dominate in the society. It is not fair regarding other races. Every member, irrespective of his/her colour of skin, should feel free to express opinions. A person must know that his/ her point of view is important and will be treated with the same attention as that of others.
The idea of living without class hierarchy is linked with an opportunity to get a higher position at a job. The author says that when it comes to acquiring of material wealth, relationships between people become complicated (Hook 63). Hook is frank and shares her financial failures; she asserts that the class insisted on her being greedy and hardened for reaching material success. The rich are protected from the poor by class boundaries. The community of the rich has developed its means of shielding itself from the poor. Hook points out to the abusive nature of wealth. Americans are obsessed with accumulation of money to the point of neglecting the human values. All this creates a wide gap between the poor and the rich.
The poor are underrepresented; the American society is engraved with social classes. A class free society in America would indicate that there is no top group, neither the poor nor the rich (Hook 72). This can be attained through solidarity and not through charity. The American society lacks systems that address charities and welfare of the society. We can see that the writer supports the poor. She is persuaded that we should think of the people in need. It is ruthless to lead a luxurious life and be happy, when there are people around you who are suffering from poverty. Bell Hooks defends the idea of living a simple life, being a part of the society. Here, the membership implies not only formal belonging to a certain group, but cooperation with all the cliques and sharing actual social problems.
Social class in America is considered a controversial and complex issue. This is also due to the fact that the term has a lot of definitions and that makes it unclear. The definition of the social class often refers to the notions of disagreements, and complex models. The majority of Americans believe that social class defines the rich as well as the middle class and poor people. It is necessary to say that there are other classes, identified by scientists (Hook 111). People in America are grouped according to education, wealth, occupation, cultural affiliation and income.
A lot of sociologists from different countries define six social classes. They are the capitalist and upper classes, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class and lower class, which is divided into the unemployed underclass and the working poor.
Social classes in the United States of America brought inequality among the people. The existence of social classes made the society defragmented. Only by means of solidarity, it is possible to influence the situation and develop a class free society in America (Hook 121). The social class issue is highly disputable and subjective. Americans are a multicultural nation, bound together by social classes. Researchers believe that social classes have existed for many centuries. This phenomenon is considered to be as old as the civilization. It is considered that every society in the world is marked by social classes.
There is a group of scientists who say that it is difficult to understand the human behavior, which is complex and highly dynamic. Researchers, therefore, divided the society into spheres to enable scientific study. The stratification created the gap between the poor and the rich. It has been proved by sociologists that a class position influences the lifestyle of individuals in the world. According to Hook ,social classes show how people have distinguished themselves from the rest of the community. Some people think that they are better than others (Hook 121). They feel that they are prestigious, well-paid and valuable to the society. This is the notion, associated with the kind of houses people live, the type of cars, people drive, and the type of friends people have. Charity can never eliminate the social class. Solidarity in a classless society is the best tool for overcoming social differences. This means that all people must value one another, irrespective of the economic status of individuals.
It is believed that the social class offers a combination of opportunities and choices that people can make. Individuals are pulled unconsciously together to form a social class. This is considered especially important in the capitalism theory (Hook 142). High income and luxurious offices are considered the elements which can encourage society members to obtain the skills and knowledge for professional performing of specialized duties and hence, for reaching success. Solidarity is crucial in bringing people together irrespective of the social class and status in the society.