Felton: Time to recognize monetary privilege

One day I was scrolling through old photos of a coworker on Instagram with a friend when he noticed my coworker’s smile and said, “She has a dead tooth. She needs to go get that fixed.”

“Not everyone can afford that,” I told my friend, whose dad happened to be a dentist. 

I rolled my eyes and moved my tongue over my peaking canine and curved lower incisor wondering what he thought about my teeth. Throughout all of my childhood, a frequent conversation I had with my parents was about when I would get braces. 

It was around high school, however, that they told me they just couldn’t afford braces. 

I come from a family who never went on vacations, drove junky cars and shopped for produce at Walmart.

After the conversation with my friend, I felt it was important to recognize how the upper-middle class doesn’t always realize that expenses that are small to them are costly to those without monetary privilege.

The fashion industry is constantly changing to exclude those who can’t keep up with trends, and now that fast fashion is a notable contributor to harmful effects on the environment, the focus on where we buy clothes has shifted.

With an influx of people buying second-hand, fashionable and affordable clothing can be hard to find.

If you can swipe your card without cringing at the price tag, I highly encourage you to buy up. However, people from a lower-income situation should not be shamed for shopping at places like SHEIN and H&M now that secondhand has been ransacked by trendsetters.

Veganism is also growing in the environmentalist movement. Again, I encourage those who can eat without hurting the environment to keep doing so, and since coming to Augustana, I have practiced a more eco-friendly diet. Yet I am only feeding myself, and if I were to ask my mom to cut out meat and dairy for our family of four, we’d probably also have to cut out our electricity bill too.

It is hard to be eco-friendly and still shop within a budget. 

What is the most infuriating is how big corporate companies cut the cost of items by putting in harmful ingredients, so they can market to the lower class.

Hygiene products like pads and tampons are now being made with organic cotton and free of chlorine bleaching. It’s criminal enough that companies placed bad ingredients in the products in the first place, but the ones that take out harmful ingredients often ramp up the price. 

I don’t think one can talk about class without also acknowledging race. Just a couple of weeks ago Texas was shamed for being a red state with statements that if Texas had only voted blue they wouldn’t be facing such widespread outages.

Now, who is to say that if Texas were a blue state much would have changed anyway, but besides that Texas is a heavily gerrymandered state, and so, those who can vote blue probably aren’t accounted for.

One-sixth of Texas’s population are immigrants, 51% of whom immigrated from Mexico, according to the American Immigration Council, so some of those who’d like to vote might not have American citizenship. The cost and process to become a citizen is expensive and timely.

Instead of shaming the lower class, we need to shame the politicians and companies that keep them lower class. It’s important to realize they may have sacrificed getting that tooth fixed to help save up for their kid’s college or just to pay that month’s rent.

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