Changing Class in America
In the book the “Great Gatsby,” Jay Gatsby was enamored of and fascinated by the famous character “Miss Daisy.” He was relentless in his pursuit of her. There was only one major problem: Miss Daisy was from the upper class; Gatsby was from the lower class.
Gatsby had met Miss Daisy earlier in his life. He never forgot her. That’s an understatement. As men sometimes experience, he was laser-focused on charming and winning her.
So Gatsby decided to create a fictitious life for himself. He bought a mansion and the requisite clothes of the upper class to craft his outward appearance as a man of wealth and achievement.
However, the mystery that surrounded Gatsby was how he had achieved his wealth. There was something disconcerting about it to his newfound friends. It just didn’t fit together, that is, Gatsby the man and his outward appearance. (I’ll leave how he did it to our readers, so as to not divulge the ending to one of literature’s greatest mysteries.)
Gatsby knew that the only way to woo and win Miss Daisy was to paint himself as a member of the upper class. That’s what he did. He even tried to speak like a member of that class.
His friend and neighbor on his property, Tom, recognized that his infatuation was beyond normal. Tom advised Gatsby that he couldn’t “recreate the past.” To which, Gatsby famously replied “but of course you can ol’ boy!?” He was a man on a serious mission.
Gatsby tried to change classes by choosing one of the most ineffectual methods: pretending that he was someone he was not. Eventually this strategy runs thin, and then out.
In our last blog “When the World Came to Arkansas,” we identified another means of doing so: going to college. We described the story of “Marcus” who traveled to another world outside of Arkansas. There are many more methods. We will address them in future blogs.
A more radical approach to the prospect of changing class is held by the Reverend Farrakhan of Muslim Nation and other related, similarly entitled organizations. Rev. Farrakhan held controversial positions that would have difficulty surviving today, like the destruction of Israel. It is unknown whether he still holds them today.
However, he held one philosophy that could be embraced by people of many races and religious persuasions: a belief in creating a strong family structure. He believed that this would advance the prospects of Black American males.
One aspect of this strategy is the recommendation that Black males “take advantage of the White man’s world” to advance one’s prospects. Some examples would be to benefit by Affirmative Action to gain employment, use welfare programs, use society’s libraries, purchase food and clothing sold by retailers catering to the lower class, and similar ideas to gain personal benefit.
Changing classes isn’t easy. Ask Jay Gatsby (if we could). Ask African Americans. Ask women. Ask many other people. It seems that the barrier is high and few propel themselves over it.
But there are ways to change class. In this blog we’ve studied several ways to do it. In my next blog we will explore more ways for doing so. Some are challenging, some less so.
If you are inclined to try, get on your chosen path and stay on it until you’ve accomplished your goal.
It will be hard, but well worth it.
The Make Life Good Team