Issues: the inequality of wealth


Malayna Vines

photo by Malayna Vines

Malcia Greene, entertainment editor

Fifth period just let out. Weaving through the crowd of kids in the social studies hallway, you make your way toward the commons for lunch. Looking around, you catch a glimpse at your classmates. Hmm, that’s odd. Almost everyone looks the same. While this is no new trend, you once again catch just about every girl journeying down the hall in a pair of Lululemon leggings matched with white Nike socks inside black Vans and with a North Face backpack strapped on. Not to mention, they’re holding a pack of Papermate mechanical pencils starting off at $8 for two. Glancing at your own outfit, you’ve got on an old Gap hoodie you found in the dad section at Goodwill along with jeans you wear from Saver’s.

‘If only they knew I was different’ you think to yourself.

While the high standards high schoolers hold may not be noticeable, teenagers create an unsaid stigma in regards to the most high-end, name brand items. If not clothing, then it’s the stores they buy groceries from. If not that, then it is their accessories. While one kid may be talking about her getaway to Greece over the summer, the girl to her left may be wondering how her family will scrape up enough money for dinner that night. Whether this be through internal judgement or gawking at the alleged ‘weird girl’ for wearing the same outfit did for the past two days, evidence the minds of teenagers minds tend to make up their mentalities the second we see something ‘off.’

Asha Zein, senior, is a firm believer that there is nothing wrong with saving a buck or two in order to better oneself. Even if it means not having the most high end apparel to choose from daily, she keeps in mind that everything comes from a place of well-meaning.

“It’s not about what you wear and it’s not about how much it costs, it’s about how confident you are are wearing it.” Zein said. “Unfortunately, there are people who will look down on you for having something more expensive than you and that’s not always fair because not everyone has access to what you have access to.”

However, amidst the societal perceptions of school being a place to show off, this overarching concept seems to be socially accepted. Zein also believes that the constant stress to show off is created by trying to feel a sense of superiority via social media.

“There’s almost a pressure to mask what you have going on because you may not want people looking down on you or giving you pity.” Zein said. “Especially on places such as Instagram and Snapchat you’ll see this because everyone is trying to show off the best version of themselves, [but] you may not know what’s really behind closed doors.”

Noah Wolfe, junior, also agrees with the notion that those who don’t keep up with the latest trends of today are left feeling utterly inferior to their peers. In regards whether or not there is any issue of shopping at Walmart as opposed to Target, his opinion put forth the popular attitude of many others have said to feel.

“I imagine there may be a sense of shame in going there and seeing someone you know and not wanting them to know you’re getting clothes from somewhere cheaper.” Wolfe said. “It’s weird, though, because what people do is put on some sort of facade that gives them a wealthy appearance and other people will see that, not making anything of it until a situation occurs.”

According to Romona Miller, KHS assistant principal, KHS’ socioeconomic scale covers a wide variety of students, concluding to why she partners with KHS Cares, a program giving back for students who are less fortunate, with the goal to help students for students to feel more equal to their peers. Because of the immense misrepresentation for students and their wealth, her top priority is paving to path to ending that.

“We have children ranging from homeless to those who are at the top level of wealth,” Miller said. “Our main concern is students having a sense of invalidation, merely because of how much money their parents make. KHS Cares allows students at the beginning of the year to have school supplies, clothes, shoes and more.”

If you think the inequality of wealth stops at a high school level, think again. If ever hearing the term, “Where’d you go to high school?” among Saint Louisans, you may or may not be aware of the current debate of this. By asking someone their high school, not always, but very much so dictates one’s socioeconomic background- and has been sought by many adults to be offensive.

“You’re putting someone in a place forcing them to be judged,” Miller said.” Comparing one person who went to a school in the city as opposed to somebody who went to school in Kirkwood. How would you respond?”

KHS students face an a spectrum of wealth from the elites to those less fortunate. However, the inequality of wealth remains an issue due to the consistent misunderstandings about who has what. In this piece, it tackles the representation as a whole and the attempts to combat it.