Let's Talk about SES!

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Written by Jeannine Bell
If your law teaching experiences are anything like mine (or that of my students) you have had few discussions of class or socioeconomic (SES) either with colleagues or with your students. While race is frequently discussed in first year and upper-class courses, there are rarely discussions outside of social class. This is not something that I noticed as a law student (more than likely because of my own privileged class status), but it is something that my working-class students notice and have occasionally commented on to me. Why don’t we talk about class more in law schools? It is not, I think because SES is not a suspect classification. There are so many things in the classroom that we talk about that are not suspect classes and that don’t really matter in a fundamental way.   Socioeconomic class matters to the outcome of cases, to courts’ analyzes, and to litigants’ access to justice, to name just a few ways in which it is important. Maybe we don’t talk about class because we want to pretend it’s irrelevant, or that justice is blind to issues of class and status. Maybe we don’t want to embarrass those in the room who don’t share our privileged class status. My students have taught me however that not talking about class doesn’t make it go away, it just makes some them of them feel (rather) invisible.