We’re All Wrong About Race

The perception among many whites is that blacks cause their own problems, by being criminal, by failing to get education, by being druggies, by being absent parents, and so on.

The perception among many blacks is that the deck is so heavily stacked against them, with de facto housing discrimination, lack of job opportunities, and ongoing police violence, that continuing conflict and inequality are inevitable.

Both are right—a little bit—and both are wrong. Race relations are a two-way street and we are traveling away from each other. As a nation, as a society, we have allowed inequality, poverty, and lack of opportunity to persist for generations, and have not addressed the conditions forcefully enough. The problems don’t just persist, but in many cases worsen, and usually affect the poor, not just blacks.

We have failed to address
economic opportunity
in any meaningful way.

Why do so many poor people, of all races, fail to thrive? I think much of the answer is that we have failed to address economic inequality in any meaningful way. Further, conservatives continue to embrace the fiction that the entire reason people don’t succeed is because they don’t try.

We seem to spend endless time debating minimum wage, with rich conservatives convinced not only that anyone can live on minimum wage, but that paying a true living wage would bring down the entire economy. This is another case where the actual facts make no difference, because they contradict the self-serving conservative religion. Far better minimum wages are the practice in many First World nations, along with mandatory paid vacation, sick leave, and other benefits. They work well, and there is no reason that shouldn’t be the case in the US.

There is no reason
the US should not have
Living Wage laws.

The poor come from urban, suburban, and rural areas that are poor. The people have great difficulty earning enough money for a decent life. Much of what little opportunity for work they do have gives them either low pay or it is seasonal or temporary. Millions of people work full time, or even have multiple jobs, at near minimum wage. None of them make enough to support a family. A significant number who work for places like Mickey-D and Walmart only manage with welfare, which of course we pay for, in effect subsidizing the multi-million dollar bonuses of the top execs who believe $7.25 is adequate.

Many whites, especially conservative Republicans, believe that blacks who struggle with dead-end jobs (somehow forgetting that there are more whites than blacks in such jobs) are unsuccessful at rising from poverty because they are lazy. But the vast majority of people of any color want to work, and want their share of the prosperity that should be available to everyone. But in many places the opportunity does not exist.

Students in South Korea
don’t view learning
as “acting white”.

Still, a small number of disaffected young black (and other) men seem to go out of their way to do everything wrong. They come to believe early on that the payoff for education is not available to them, so they reject education entirely. Their absentee rates are higher than anyone else. They leave high school largely illiterate and innumerate almost as a point of pride, keeping themselves purposely ignorant. They reject everything that they perceive as “white”. This virtually guarantees a life of poverty. This is a bad mistake, and it has nothing to do with “whiteness”. Obviously, students in, say, South Korea, don’t think getting an education is “white”, and such students will be our competition.

On the other side of the color line, who would not want to be somewhere else when a scowling, muscular white guy wearing a lot of leather and metal stuff, shaved head, and a swastika tattoo on his forehead shows up. Why is it so hard for such people to see themselves as others see them? This is purposeful construction of an obnoxious character. They may actually be intelligent and talented young men, but they are going nowhere acting and dressing like that.

White attitudes are like religious beliefs,
which are unaffected by actual facts.

If any solution to this giant culture clash is to come about, both elements will have to move toward a point in the middle. The more difficult task is to change white attitudes, because white attitudes are like religious beliefs, which are unaffected by actual facts. The same prejudices and stereotypes that prevailed half a century ago remain today, and recent news suggest there is little improvement. A large percentage of whites blame unarmed blacks for their own murder by violent, out-of-control police. I think we can safely say that equality comes first. Gradually, generations after equality has improved, tolerance will follow.

The government at all levels has the major responsibility for correcting social inequality. Tolerance can only come from individuals. In my opinion, doing away with the practice of funding schools with property taxes, and establishing laws that mandate equal funding of every child, will go a long way, but will not solve everything.

Such proposals as I suggest
are mainstream and
common in other countries.

Such proposals as I suggest are not radical. They are mainstream and common in other countries, and would benefit the nation as a whole. Yet we fail to take advantage of them, mostly because of the conservative fable that all poverty is the fault of the lazy black poor. The US is the only First World nation that fails to fund all students equally. Further, several nations provide additional funding to help students rise from poverty.


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  1. Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.


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