Mnookin: Discussing Class Differences

Oct 13, 2017

Cross Class Dialogue Circles are designed to bring together community members with a diversity of class experiences to look at how class and economic inequality work on a system level, as well as how wealth happens - or doesn’t happen - in our individual lives.

These circles incorporate a variety of learning techniques - including teachings on economic inequality, short video clips, drawing exercises, and opportunities to share personal stories, which are often cited as transformational.

In the words of co-founder and facilitator Angela Berkfield, “People carry these stories with them every single day, and don’t have a chance to talk about them. People have a lot of rage, and have a lot of guilt and fear and love and complexity, and all of those things get to come into the dialogue circles. And people can show up as their full selves and ask really hard questions.”

The next cross-class dialogue circle will begin November 4th at The Root Social Justice Center in Brattleboro. And eventually, facilitators hope to bring these circles to other regions of Vermont.

Co-founder and facilitator Davey Shlasko explains the purpose of Cross Class Dialogue Circles is to build “real relationships across class that will help [people] bring those skills into their relationships - into their families, their lives, and their communities.”

These circles provide a framework for how to talk about class on a personal level - while providing concrete skills to support people in taking action towards economic justice.

Participant Camille Robertson reflects that “As a racial justice organizer, particularly as a white racial justice organizer in a predominantly white area, it felt really important to be spending more time understanding my own class background and blindspots and position as my class position has changed, and also be able to engage across classes in my organizing work.”

Funding for these circles follows an innovative “pay it forward” model. Participants sign up at no cost and then engage in a cost-sharing process to decide together how much each person should pay. The resulting combination of money, time, and participant networking is used to fund the next circle.

For some participants, this cost-sharing process is the most honest conversation about money they’ve ever had.

And for all, the goal is to understand and discard the feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion that most of us have about wealth - and the ingrained reluctance to talk about it.