In my last post I hinted that my next entry would be influenced by my current re-reading of Richard Wright’s Native Son. I’ve decided to follow up on that.
The story of Native Son follows the life of Bigger Thomas, a black young adult in the segregated city of Chicago. Bigger is hired as a chauffeur for a rich family. The white daughter of the family and her Communist boyfriend goad a very reluctant Bigger into a debauched evening where the rules governing race relations are broken. When Bigger carries the passed out daughter to her room he is nearly discovered by the mother (blind), which at the time could’ve lead to severe consequences for a black male, and in desperation to hide himself smothers the daughter with a pillow–accidentally then killing her.
The story has a focus on two areas of tension in society. First there is the oppression felt by the black characters of the novel, who acknowledge in varying degree of acceptance their marginalized status in society. Second there is the fear and suspicion of white society, who react both violently and angrily at what they see as danger posed by the intrusion of blacks that cross the segregation line.
In my eyes we are still living in a climate of mutual fear, almost identical to the society portrayed by Wright, with the fundamental difference that the axis of difference is no longer formal segregation, but accusation and counter-accusation of intolerance.
Lately we’ve seen an ebullition of “white fear,” claims that it is minority groups who are doing harm to an innocent majority and violating the principles of equality. Examples:
1. Rush Limbaugh claims that Sonia Sotomayor and President Obama are “reverse racists” and reflect the assumption of minorities into dominant political power.
2. Rush Limbaugh weighing in again regarding an incident on a school bus where black students ganged up on a white youth. In Rush’s words this is par for the course in “Obama’s America.”
3. Glenn Beck claims the president has a “deep seated hatred of white people.”
4. There are numerous arguments of “reverse racism” in university admission policies, including my neighborhood’s own University of Michigan.
5. On a more radical level, the KKK claims on its website that the practice of “cross-lighting” (“burning” they say conjures a negative image) is supposed to be a symbol of “freedom” and “commitment to Christian faith.” And that minorities have unfairly exploited the act for their own power gains.
Clearly things have changed since 1940s. The trend now, for those speaking on behalf of white Americans, is paint their race as new victims of racist exploitation. Things have changed for sure, but only in rhetoric. The social reality is disturbingly much the same.
1. Racial minorities are still more likely to live below the poverty line.
2. Racial minorities are still paid less for their work.
3. Minority schools are more under-funded.
4. Racial minorities are dramatically more likely to be incarcerated (they say there’s no affirmative action for prisons.)
5. Racial minorities are by far the largest block of hate crime victims.
6. Racial minorities are underrepresented with high school graduation, college degrees, etc. in education.
Statements claiming that whites are the subject of discrimination is nothing but a delusional fantasy and open lie. But it’s clearly a lie told with a great deal of conviction, especially to see the KKK join the bandwagon of white victimhood. A fantasy and a lie because truth would imply some consequences discernible to investigation. It’s almost a tautology, if whites were the victims of discrimination they’d be the victims of discrimination.
In psychology, when an individual co-currently denies their own attributes while seeing such attributes unrealistically in other people, it’s known as psychological projection. The reason Obama and Sotomayor are seen as racists is because these particular whites maintain but categorically deny cause for their own social superiority, and believe minorities will act accordingly. I think the most pathological case is Ann Coulter, who sees no contradiction in joining the Obama/Sotomayor=racists bandwagon, while making a vile career of virulent anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic logorrhea.
Racial motives lie in hiding; economic interests give them sanctification. There is no separating the arguments of “reverse racism” without also looking at arguments against “forced redistribution.” By “forced redistribution” they mean any policy undertaken on a public level to redress social inequality. “Forced redistribution” is just reactionary speak for social welfare and all tax collection (which is not spent on defense, policing, farm subsides, whatevs.) Although social welfare programs exist across racial lines, there are disproportionately more minorities who utilize these programs as there are disproportionately more minorities in poverty.
I’ll save the debate over the merits and demerits of a welfare system for another post. What interests me right now is the concept of force. By conservative standards already mentioned, force is what happens when a government agency shifts wealth from one group to another. But this raises a crucial question: what caused the inequal gap in wealth along racial lines? Somewhere along the line, something caused blacks and latinos to face double the risk of living in poverty–far too high to account for a statistical glitch.
In Richard Wright’s day the something, the cause of racial inequality was obvious. Blacks were denied jobs, housing, loans, legal rights, etc. If there was ever a case to apply the term “force” then segregated America is it. Institutional segregation is over now, yet there is a heavy trace of segregation. Civil rights laws ideally nullified the ability for whites to force discrimination. But speaking ideally, one might also say that anti-drug laws nullified the use of pot. People still smoke pot, no one denies that, but there is a societal tendency to deny that racial discrimination can occur in a post-civil rights society.
To me, the most logical answer to racial disparity is discrimination’s legacy, a reiteration of force by one group over another. Certainly there is plenty of data conducted by social scientists to support such a claim. It would also account for the rather stable level of racial disparity. This obviously has consequences for public policy.
If racism, expressed through social norms and practices, is the cause of racial disparity, then wealth is being unfairly distributed in America by artificial force. Essentially, the disparity is a “forced redistribution.”
Ideologically, the new era of white victimhood is Marxism turned upside down. The fashionable critique suggests minorities have used political power to claim the right over wealth without doing any work. Ironically, the exploiting class to the conservative comes away with less than the class being exploited.