Oct 13 2014
Elizabeth Chin’s book, Purchasing Power, provides an overall analysis of the racial aspects in our consumer society today. After spending two years in New Haven, Connecticut, Chin experiences first account the hardships of the poor and working-class children in order to understand the ways they manage to survive in a wealthy society. In Chin’s interviews with black children she begins to discover where and how they spend their money. The notion that is highlighted and supported throughout this book is that the consumer sphere is a medium for social inequality. Some of the different aspects that Elizabeth Chin studies are toy industries today, the history of black consumerism, the consumer lives of poor minority populations and the social and economic changes in consumerism. In this book, Chin shares countless experiences when shopping with poor middle class black children. In one instance, while shopping in a downtown mall, one of the children she is with notices that the white clerk is watching them intently. The child comments, “that white lady is following us around.” This shows the child’s awareness of the fact that “white” people watch them because of the stereotypical identity as a consumer. This interaction has negative effects on the children allowing them to create apprehensions about themselves. These stereotypes are very common in the consumer world. An interesting quote that opens the readers eyes to more complex struggles that black children face that we (whites) are not even aware of is the idea that “the consumer world in which these children operate is one where even the illusionary choices offered by the market are often out of reach.” Children are profound, as we see through many of Chin’s interviews. They understand the way the consumer world works and as a result the purchasing decisions are significantly different than other children. In its entirety, this book is an analysis of the consumer sphere focusing on revealing the subtle but constant and consistent inequalities that define racial roles in today’s consumer world.
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