Some American class realities are so mundane that that they generally go unnoticed. Sunday night, I took my bro-in-law Vincent out for dinner at a nice but not particularly fancy establishment in south Chicagoland. There was a wait, and all the chairs were taken in the crowded entry-way. Vincent wasn’t real happy about that. In a few moments, a single mom who could have been Roseanne Barr’s stunt double called to her son: “Get up.” She gestured to me that Vincent should sit in the vacated seat. Vincent and I went on to have a nice dinner. None of our white and black working-class fellow customers eating out with their kids seemed to much notice or care that we didn’t always eat with the greatest decorum.
I hate taking Vincent to pricey restaurants mostly filled with my own educational/income peers. People say all the kind things. Yet it’s not uncommon for customers at nearby tables to make us feel uncomfortable when a few chunks of Vincent’s chicken ends up on his shirt or to visibly fidget when he detracts from their elegant dining experience by allowing his fingers to migrate into the tomato sauce.
Working-class people are less rattled by the practical realities of disability and caregiving. Everyone has a cousin with an issue, a parent or an aunt who works as a special education teacher or direct care worker. Unlike the students at our university’s fancy lab school, working-class kids attend gym class, share a school bus, and sit in the same lunch room with peers living with various forms of intellectual or developmental disabilities. The realities and challenges of disability are a more routine part of everyday life. And it shows.