Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the Margins

Jim Webb gets it half right when he talks of "marginalized" white Americans put at disadvantage by "state-sponsored racism". Webb is correct when he states that many whites face the same difficulties as black Americans. What he gets wrong is the cause. Poverty among whites is not the result of state-sponsored racism. State-sponsored corporate economic policies are more the reason. Those policies are not racist. They are simply predatory. Neither race nor official preferences are protection from a winner-take-all economy where few are winners.

Black and white Americans have always suffered from economic disadvantage. They shared a common interest in ending exploitation and injustice. But race kept them apart, keeping a majority from acting in their common interest. Divide and rule has long been a successful model for minority rule.

Webb's remarks come at the end of an interesting week. Race bubbled to the surface of public discussion with the on-line lynching of a black official. Her merest hint of racial hostility and resentment toward whites earned an immediate dismissal from office. In contrast, white officials with verified histories of discrimination against blacks were never fired. State-sponsored racial animus does not flow against whites in this picture.

Race relations were on my mind before the week's events. I finished reading Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War in which the former war correspondent explores the contemporary landscape of the Civil War. Among the re-enactors, neo-Confederates and endless memorials, Horwitz finds a racially divided society, each with its own history. I was not entirely surprised. Most of my life I lived in proximity to black Americans but not with them. These days I hardly live near any blacks. Still, I was disappointed that the gulf is remains so great.

Race and class have bedeviled America since our earliest days. We seem to still have a long way to go. Simply electing a racially mixed president is not enough.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes, divide and conquer has worked well. It masks the big picture of what this is about; (obsene)wealth vs. poor, not black vs. white. But until racism is mostly eliminated, or people can see past its remnants, it will be pretty hard to get everybody on board.

7:44 PM  

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