During a public address in 2013, then-President of the United States Barack Obama described »dangerous and growing inequality« as »the defining challenge of our time«. Since then, inequality has remained a lively political issue. However, as Richard Reeves identifies in his book Dream Hoarder, much of the rhetoric centres on the ‘top one percent’ problem—as if the remaining 99 share the same experience. Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, reminds us that this is untrue by examining the widening gap between the upper-middle class and everyone else.
A year earlier, a Pew study found that children raised in low-income families tend to become low-income earners as adults, while those raised at the opposite end of the income ladder tend to become high earners. This ‘stickiness at the ends’ is due in part, to categorical inequalities, which Charles Tilly describes in his book Durable Inequality as those maintained by social discriminators such as gender, race, or nationality. Tilly argues that these unequal categorical pairs, i.e. citizen/non-citizen, are the solution to an organisational problem which, despite its drawbacks, both sides of the divide have come to depend on.
When members of a categorically bounded network acquire something of value, they might organise to control that asset. This monopoly helps members of the group ‘look out for one another’. And while it might seem harmless enough to support someone in your group, in some cases, this opportunity hoarding contributes to harmful outcome differentials among different groups.
Sometimes when there’s only one person from a certain background in a particular space, that pioneering person opens the door for others, so it isn’t fused shut again. But some want to shut the door behind them and be the only one in the room.
The Iranian-American chef Samin Nosrat understands the temptation but chooses instead to make space at the table for everyone.
Inspired by: Code Switch: Samin Nosrat Is Making Space At The Table
Reference: The Guardian
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