More Than Money
Issue #17

Cross-Class Relationships

Table of Contents

“Class Prejudice: A Two-Way Street?”

In the process of building successful cross-class relationships, many wealthy people have to confront their own misconceptions and prejudices about others. Wealthy children are likely to receive many overt and subtle messages about the inferiority of people from the "lower classes." Some are discouraged or even forbidden to associate with people from other classes. They are taught to assume that others are only interested beliefs form an obstacle to the development of trusting, close relationships.

Another obstacle to satisfying cross-class relationships is the resentment, hostility, and negative stereotypes many working and middle-class people project onto their wealthy friends, lovers, and acquaintances. Although hostility towards the rich is socially acceptable in this culture, stereotypes about anyone, including rich people, are unproductive. There are wealthy people who are stingy and only concerned with themselves, but there are also many generous rich people.

Throughout history, many rich people have lived productive lives and given their time, money, and even their lives for the common good. Julia, the wealthy friend portrayed in Lillian Hellman's Pentimento , and Raol Wallenberg, the wealthy Swedish diplomat, both died during World War II fighting fascism. Many other wealthy people have worked for social change. Blanket, negative stereotyping ignores and obscures this important tradition among the wealthy.

While money can provide benefits like good health care, excellent education, luxury vacations, and a nice place to live, the rich still get cancer, have children who die, experience physical, social, or mental abuse, get divorced, and are still subjected to oppression as members of other groups, such as Jews, women, or gays. Denying the suffering of wealthy people dehumanizes them.

Overcoming obstacles in a cross-class relationship is hard work, and requires ongoing dialogue and challenge. For wealthy people, it also requires becoming clearer about who they are, separating themselves from the common stereotypes of the rich, and developing enough self-esteem to challenge their own prejudices while knowing they don't deserve mistreatment.

- anonymous author


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