Poverty In Black And White

It is unfair to all poor people of all races that poverty and other economic problems become racialized. Race becomes blamed for that which race is just an excuse. Worse still, the powerful hope to turn the poor people against each other using racial divisiveness.

It is inspiring that some Americans have been able to see beyond this. I was reading a book about the activism and organizing of poor and working class whites during the 60s: Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy. It is about how these white groups formed alliances with black groups in common cause, both groups dealing with poverty and oppression.

The book is eye-opening. This isn’t any history you were ever taught or even likely to have come across. As far as I know, this is the first book written about it. In one instance, the Klan provided protection to a black group during a strike that blacks and whites were organizing together. That is hard to imagine, but it happened (Kindle Locations 149-154):

“We organized a meeting of Movement organizers, including members of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), for the Patriots delegation. At the time, the New Orleans chapters of the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) and the RNA were working together supporting a strike by pulp mill workers in Laurel, Mississippi, not far outside New Orleans. Virginia Collins , the local RNA leader and one of the organization’s founders, told the Patriots about the white and Black workers who had been enemies before the strike but were now working together. She shared that the local Klan actually provided security for the SCEF and RNA organizers when they came to hold meetings, and that sometimes they met in the Black Baptist church, sometimes in the white Baptist church.”

One group was the Young Patriots. They were lower class white Southerners who had moved North. They all lived in a neighborhood in Chicago where poverty and unemployment was rampant. These were the poorest of the poor whites. So, just like poor blacks, they organized. But they never got the attention from the MSM. Even the middle class white activists largely ignored them. Poor Southern whites were supposed to be the bad guys, but some blacks were able to empathize. It took the Black Panthers to acknowledge these struggling whites (Kindle Locations 262-266):

“The Young Patriots’ own chairman, William Fesperman, even let some heartfelt gratitude show in between jibes about the “pig power structure” when he explained how the Patriots came to be at the conference: “Our struggle is beyond comprehension to me sometimes and I felt for a long time [that poor whites] was forgotten … that nobody saw us. Until we met the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and they met us and we said let’s put that theory into practice.” Summing up why they had all come to Oakland, he added, “We want to stand by our brothers, our brothers, dig?””

Those in power don’t care about poor whites any more than they care about poor blacks. Racism sucks and should be dealt with, but we have to realize that the ignoring of poor whites is part of the racial equation of oppression. If all poverty is seen as a black thing, then the poor whites don’t have to be recognized. Poor whites with the same social problems as poor blacks can be swept under the rug. Instead, we can simply blame all social problems on blacks with the assumption that blacks are just inferior and so nothing can be done about it.

Racializing social problems is how the mostly white upper class argues that it isn’t their problem. The mythical black that ruins all that is good about white society becomes an explanation for everything. Blacks are the scapegoat for what we don’t want to face. Race is a distraction, a justification for an oppressive social order. Race is an idea that blinds us to reality. The social problems caused by racism become justified by that very same racial ideology.

If enough people ever realized that there are no blacks and whites, just people struggling, a real threat to the status quo might develop.

44 thoughts on “Poverty In Black And White

  1. The US is a long, long way from becoming a post-racial society I’m afraid.

    The truth is, the middle class white has a lot more in common with many of the disadvantaged minorities than they would be comfortable admitting.

    – Uncertain future
    – Being exploited by the elite
    – Declining wages
    – Declining standard of living

    We could add a lot more to this list.

    The point is, the problem I see is that many whites identify with the very wealthy. They do so for no other reason than skin color. Economically, the middle, and I would argue upper middle class has more in common with the minority.

    It’s especially true in the South where many working class whites identify with the very wealthy, despite having little in common.

    I think that race is something the very wealthy have ruthlessly exploited to their advantage.

    • That is likely true for many whites. Most Americans in general, including most blacks, are one way or another invested in the status quo. They are just trying to get by, going along to get along. It takes the rare person to strive for something different and demand genuine justice.

      But those rare people do exist and they can have disproportionate influence when the social conditions are right. If we don’t know our own history, most especially of those rare people, we’ll keep fighting the same old battles over and over again, never learning the lessons of the past. That is one of the points of that book I was quoting.

  2. It’s not like this outside of the US I find.

    Canada, in generally, the middle class tends to identify with each other. That, and inequality is not as high as the US (although rising at an alarming pace).

    There isn’t as much racism – not nearly. It still is a problem though:

    I think it’s more a function of rising inequality than anything else. That is the real problem, high inequality, which leads to other problems.

    It seems inequality is rising everywhere.

    • In the US, much classism gets expressed as and justified with racism. Thiis is why poverty and economic inequality is so much worse here than other Wesstern countries. This is another of the ways the post-colonial legacy remains so dominant in this country. Canada doesn’t have as stark of internal conflicts because it never had slavery. I don’t know if the US will ever escape its dark past.

      • Canada did have slavery at one point. First, certain Aboriginal tribes did through their conquests own slaves. Both the French and British brought over slaves too from overseas.

        It’s a rather dark chapter of Canadian history. It was effectively abolished by 1800 and in 1834, the British Parliament’s Slavery Abolition Act banned it in the empire.

        • I don’t know Canadian history in detail. My sense was that slavery played a more minor role there. I realize, though, that slavery existed across the entire British Empire and that it involved an extensive trade route(s), involving pretting much the entire British economy, one way or annother.

    • One of my favorite topics in all the world is that of generations. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I discovered Strauss and Howe’s generation theory.

      It has been so long ago that I don’t remember when I first read about generations. I guess it came up in the media quite a bit when I was in high school in the early 90s. Everyone felt a need to explain my generation. GenX was the first generation that Strauss and Howe dedicated an entire book to analyze and fit into their theory.

      My generation was the first to experience economic problems before the recession. We were the canaries in the coal mine. GenX had the highest childhood poverty rate and young adulthood unemployment rate seen since the Great Depression.

      It took a while for these economic problems to spread out to the rest of the population. These problems have been developing for decades. But only now is the media catching onto the generational economic divide.

  3. I wonder how my generation, Y will be remember. We seem to be even worse off in terms of our economic outlook.

    On a real life note, I just received word that I passed my CPA exam a few days ago. Currently looking for work.

    It’s a tough economy out there for us – and other generations seem to be blaming us (which I know they did to your generation as well).

    • Older generations, including many older GenXers, don’t understand your generation and appreciate what you are collectively facing. Younger GenXers such as myself would more likely be empathetic.

      Some people would, instead, include me as part of what some call the MTV Generation. Older GenXers were more under the shadow and influence of Boomers. Their entire childhood and young adulthood was contained withn the Cold War, whereas for the youngest GenXers the Cold War ended when they were quite young.

      Growing up in the 90s, as the youngest GenXers did, gives one an experience closer to Millennials hitting adulthood right now. The 90s was when present trends became more clear. It was also the time of the rise of the radical right-wing and the creation of Fox News that, when the Silent Generation left politics in large numbrers, would lead to the Boomer dominant 2000s and endless partisan conflict.

      Only people who lack the context fo present conditions will blame Millennials. You’d think the older generations would have the context to understand and empathize, but few people have much knowledge about anything. All they know is that life wasn’t so hard when they were younger and so they dismiss the complaints of a new generation, not realizing how much has changed.

      It won’t last forever. Once GenXers and Millennials are the majority in politics, there will be changes. I don’t know if we’ll be able to clean up the mess, but it would be nice to get the Boomers out of the way. They’ve been obstructing any hope of progress for too long now.

      • There is that. Older generations generally after WWII graduated and grew up in strong economies. Pretty much between WWII and the late 1970s, employment was pretty strong (at least compared to today anyways).

        Manufacturing was a vibrant sector and one did not need a university level education to get into the middle class.

        Today, things are different. People even with university level education have a hard time getting a job and there are very limited opportunities for those without. At the same time, the older generations seem to be totally unable to empathize.

        If anything, since 2008, the job market is probably worse than the worst that generation X graduated with.

        • I graduated high school in 1994. That is twenty years ago.

          My closest friend, when I was a child and still today, graduated high school in 1997 and college in 2001. By some generational definitions, my friend (born in 1978) was the very last wave of GenXers.

          That last wave, not even teenagers when the Cold War ended, hit full adulthood just as the War On Terror began. It wasn’t that long ago. It was truly the ending of one era and the beginning of a new one.

          Things were already getting worse over the 90s. But I have no doubt the economy is far worse now. My generation was merely the first casualties, not necessarily the worst casualties.

          Still, it isn’t easy raising kids in this economy, as many GenXers are doing right now, including both of my brothers. One of my brothers has a college degree and the other doesn’t, but both have struggled with employment in recent years. All three of us are lucky enough, though, to be an area that wasn’t hit as hard with economic problems as many other places.

          I wonder if Millennials will put off having children even later than GenXers did, which for my generation was already quite late in life.

      • We need to get the Boomers out of the way culturally also (especially in the spheres of music, movies, and TV as well), or we won’t be getting anywhere-their nostalgia has infected North American culture to too much of a degree (classic rock radio stations replaying ’50’s, 60, & ’70’s music ad infinitum), classic TV channels rerunning ’50’s and ’60’s TV shows) making it hard for most (North) Americans (whites in particular) to embrace any kind of societal changes (an example is the constant veneration of the Beatles, which is used by whites-Boomers and their Generation X progeny-to demean different forms of music by blacks and other minorities, as shown here and here)-this kind of belief (especially as seen in TV sitcoms of the ’50’s and ’60’s) is fostering reactionary politicians like Trump to take power, IMHO, and also foster the kind of uncaring behavior in Boomers (and Gen X’er to some degree) mentioned by you.

        • Most in the younger generations don’t listen to their music on radio or watch their entertainment on television.

          I was among the last to grow up in that world. I listened to oldies and classic rock radio stations. I watched the reruns of shows that had been playing since my parents were kids. But I also grew up at a time when the new media was taking over. Having spent my life on the cusp of societal change, I’m able to catch many of the cultural references from both older generations and younger generations. It does help give me perspective.

          The friend of mine who is a few years younger than me entirely missed out on that older media experience. Just a few years made a difference in the media world he knew because his family had cable early on. My family didn’t get cable until I was well into high school, although I did get to watch cable when visiting friends. Cable was becoming popular in my childhood, but it took a while to become a major force to out-compete network television.

          It’s just a matter of time. Even people like me who have a clear memory of the old world will disappear. I recently entered my 40s. The next several decades will be transformational. Already those graduating college right now have almost no memory of the 20th century. That is good and bad. Many of the historical lessons learned from the 20th century will be lost when the history is forgotten. That is partly why some of the younger generation can be so accepting of the Nazi legacy, as the historical reality of Nazi rule is not personally real to them.

          It’s hard to know what it will all add up to. But it would be nice to escape the Boomer dominance that has lasted way too long. My entire life has been dominated by Boomers. Ever since the 1960s, a half century ago, mainstream media has been obsessed with Boomers. And now Boomers are those who own, control, and manage much of the mainstream media. Worse still, state and national politics is still mostly in the hands of the older generations.

          No doubt the younger generations will make mistakes. Even so, it would be nice to have the opportunity to make new and different mistakes, just to shake things up a bit. The predictability of politics has become boring and tiresome. Even Donald Trump feels predictable to me, as he is a product of that old worldview and power structure, such as being a close crony and family friend of the Clintons.

  4. Graduated high school in 2008, university in 2013 (5 year program).

    Tough economy. The 1990s did have one huge advantage. The technology sector was relatively strong for those wanting to go there.

    Where I live has been pretty hurt in some ways by the economy. Our tech sector is in deep decline. Not to mention, this province used to be a very heavy manufacturing area.

    I think that the post 1990 generation will have to put off a lot of things:

    – Car ownership is already down
    – Delaying marriage and kids
    – Delaying owning a house

    Problem is our biological clocks cannot wait for the kids one. The others – it can wait.

    • Some of the changes aren’t necessarily or entirely about the economy, though. Take the car ownership rates as an example.

      Millennials have moved to big cities and other highly urbanized areas, more than any previous generation. A car is less essential and in some cases a hindrance when you live in crowded places with plenty of public transport, whether you are unemployed or employed. Plenty of poor rural people have cars because they have to have cars even if they are old junkers.

      There are many non-economic factors that are involved. Of course, economics is part of the equation for why so many Millennials are moving out of rural areas and small towns, but I suspect there are other reasons as well.

      Heree is one possibility. Having high percentages of immigrants and children of immigrants, having high rates of being bi-racial and children of bi-racial marriages, Millennials are more used to multiculturalism and find it normal. Highly populate areas fit more closely to what Millennials are used to.

      So, maybe Millennials have moved to big cities because that is what they tend to like as a generation, including the employed. Cities also are hubs for technology wiith better internet connectivity and such. There are many attractions to urban life that might be particularly attractive to your generation.

      In turn, liviing in highly populated areas that are highly connected leads to particular attitudes and politics. It was moving to big cities in the North that allowed Southern blacks to politically organize, under conditions in many ways far worse with severe racism everywhere. I think Millennials are positioning themselves perfectly to help promote major changes.

      • I would like to hope that reforms can be made.

        Certainly, the development of Occupy Wall Street is a very positive outcome of people in cities, but it was aggressively suppressed. I’m sure the very wealthy know that the Tea Party mostly consists of useful idiots and that OWS is a legitimate threat.

        The issue I see is that society needs to make a fundamental transition towards a social democracy. It also has to be lasting this time, unlike the New Deal.

        Perhaps the “Fabian” approach of gradually becoming a socialist society is the right one? I do not know. What I do know is that the current system is failing to bring about the promised prosperity.

        I do agree that younger people are concentrating in the cities. It’s probably for the better and it will be needed to deal with what’s to come.

  5. Maybe somewhat off topic, but I think it’s really funny how you think hddchicl is really nice when for I and many others, she comes across as a real charmer, alright. No offense but a detailed scroll through her blog suggests a rather reactionary person with major special snowflake syndrome, and an atrocious writing style to boot. ^_^ ^_^^_^^_^~_^~_^~_^~_^

    The intelligence and focus that you say she has probably has much to do with asperger’s, which she’s pretty ole about having. Of course, that tends to be a strength that many aspies have, eh? The ability to really focus on a topic of interest :p

    • Definitely, asperger’s is part of it for her. She does have the ability focus, an ability that is good in some ways and bad in other ways.

      On a personal level, I just find her to be nice. Then again, lots of people are nice. I realize she has what appears to be a reactionary streak, and that is problematic in many ways, but the world is full of problems. I have my own problems as well.

      My liking her as a person and my disagreeing with her ideology are two separate things. There are many people I like, from family to old friends, who I disagree strongly with about various issues. That is just life.

  6. Honestly under the air headed ‘friendliness’ ~_^ ^_^ and standard talking points (can’t generalize, this can be used for good, I care about people) there’s a pretty mean spirited persona there, actually. Just because she likes say, jayman, as an individual don’t think she actually cares about the more rather liberal ‘justice’ she claims. She’s very much the type that would side with more fringe-right ideologies than you think. Even ‘pretty liberal’ jayman endorses that type of thinking frequently (and no offense but dude seems to be deeply ingrained issues.) See the Rotherham tragedy. It is a tragedy, but it’s being used as a ‘PC hides brown predators praying on white girls’ meme when the fact is that the predators prayed on any women around, including their own, even if this is underreported by Asian women due to a culture of shame. As well as British social services failing ALl of these women, not caring because lower class Rotherham teenagers just weren’t cared about very much.

    • I don’t know her that well. I can’t claim to have her figured out. I admit to feeling conflicted about her. I like her as a person. I get along with her, so far. I appreciate her interpersonal way of relating to others and her intellectual curiosity. I’m not even arguing about whether she is a morally good person or not, for my experience of her is rather limited. JayMan is a whole other issue. His personality irritates me and I make no bones about it.

      • Well, many people are capable of having nice mannerisms 🙂 I’m not equating her with these groups, but just as an example. The nazis prided themselves on being gentlemen. Obviously she isn’t something as terrible as a nazi, but I’m using this to prove a point that how ‘nice’ a person acts has nothing to do with how ‘nice’ a person they might really be.

        Yes. The asperger’s may also explain, well, to put it bluntly, her insane social retardedness and social naïveté :p

        • But that’s cool that you appreciate that style. A lot of us, like me, are left with the impression of ‘what an airhead’ ^_^ ^_^ ~_^ ~_^ ~_^ ‘ and just well, a weird persona. The type that might seem ‘charming’ to the type of neckbeards she attracts but not much for anyone else.

          Jayman has issues. But don’t we all?

  7. I wonder how the upper middle class is reacting to these changes.

    In terms of real income, the 80th to 95th percentile of people have, like the middle class, lost money in terms of real wages and possibly wealth. It may not be quite as bad as the middle class, but it’s still present. It is also likely bigger than any official statistics say.

    Only beyond the 95 percentile do we see income gains. Actually, the 95th to 99th percentile have had relatively small gains.

    Virtually all of the gains since the late 1970s have been to the top 1%. And of those gains, 60% went to the top 0.1%, who between the late 1970s to 2008, have managed to triple their wealth. The top 0.01% managed on average to quadruple their wealth.

    That was in 2008. I hear that somewhere between 93% to 95% of all the income gains since the ‘recovery’ have gone to the top 1%, so it’s probably even less equal now.

    • The super-rich have told the moderately rich and the middle class that the problem was the poor, that if they supported the interests of the super-rich they too would gain and the poor would be punished. They went along with it because they thought it served their personal interests. They thought as long as they got theirs, why care about anyone else? It was cynical, but it could be justified as rational.

      However, the moderately rich and the middle class will eventually come to the realization that they were lied to, that they went along with scapegoating the poor not even for a good reason of genuine self-interest. Hatred of poor people, even poor blacks and immigrants, can only go so far. At some point, even the most bigoted of people won’t see attacking the disadvantaged as compensation enough for their allowing the super-rich to rule the world.

      • So far they’ve gotten away with it.

        To be honest, at this point, I get the impression that the ones who have not yet figured this out are probably going to carry these beliefs with them to their graves. That’s especially true among a large proportion of the population in various right-leaning areas, especially in rural areas. Many Baby Boomers too seemed to be wedded to this myth. I especially see this problem with many business people.

        I suppose the Tea Party in a sense is like that. They are an older group that fiercely defends their own interest (ex: “Get your hands off my Medicare”), but adopts an extremely “I’ve got mine, screw you” mentality towards everyone else. The Libertarian movements are also like that in many ways.

        Given the level of inequality and the overwhelming evidence, I don’t think that anyone who is thinking rationally at this point is going to find the idea of this level of inequality to be acceptable.

        Other ideas, such as anti-intellectualism and the cult of the self-made man remain extremely strong. The final issue is that there doesn’t seem to be the social capital in the US that there is in other nations, which I’ve noted before.

        I think that it’s a values failure more than anything else.

  8. Here is my response to Ellie and Женщина.

    I understand the points you’re making. My point isn’t necessarily all that different, although I’m feeling more forgiving toward those I disagree with.

    I have family members who are various types and extrems of right-winger. Maybe I’m more used to it. I argue against people I disagree with, whether or not I like them personally. I’ve argued with hbdchick and I regularly argue with my own family.

    I see all kinds of problems with right-wing ideologies and those who hold them, even to the point of seeing genuine dangers to a just and moral society, especially a democratic society. I realize that, if they come to dominate, the world I want will never become a reality, and I will fight for what I think is right with my dying breath. I’m fierce in my moral righteousness.

    That said, people aren’t their ideologies. Also, people change. I’ve changed much in my life. I grew up in the Deep South raised by conservative parents, my father also having a libertarian bent. I was more conservative myself when younger and I lacked much knowledge that I now have.

    I try to be a sympathetic person, but it is easier for me to be sympathetic with some people than with others. I can’t entirely say why I like certain people more and why I go to the effort of trying to understand them. For mysterious reasons beyond my ken, I simply like hbdchick as a person. There isn’t a rational reason for it. So, I don’t expect anyone else to like her. Nor will I be offended when others tell me they don’t like her.

    It is irrelevant whether I like her and others dislike her. What I disagree with are certain of her ideas. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating some of the interesting data she posts about. Even ignoring or outright dismissing her preferred interpretations, much of the data still is worth looking at. I’ll interpret it differently and sometime question its larger validity, but I’ll always take data seriously.

    So, yeah, I suppose hbdchick has “a weird persona” and JayMan “has issues”. I wouldn’t argue against that. As far as that goes, many people would claim that I have a weird personality (possibly aspergers as well, although they weren’t making such diagnoses when I was a kid) and as you say about issues: “But don’t we all?” I’m far from the most functional person on the planet.

    In the end, I don’t want to hate on people, although I often give into that urge with people who severely irritate me. I’ve been known to mercilessly go after people I consider bigots and ignoramuses. I just don’t consider that my better self.

    I have no obligation to be a better person, to respond with compassion and understanding toward hatred and fear, ignorance and dogmatism, bigotry and indifference, naivette and cluelessness. I have no obligation, but I’d like to be a better person because I hope it makes a difference in the world. So, I choose not to despise hbdchick, no matter how I may feel about her ideological opinions. I want to be able to reach people like her, to communicate with them. I want to promote mutual understanding, if at all possible, even if that possibility seems slim.

    Maybe that makes no sense to you.

    I just know that it is the only way I’ve maintained good relations with my parents all these years. I always look for common ground and basic respect. I don’t always succeed, often failing horribly according to my own ideals and values, but I go on trying. I don’t like conflict. It tires me out and, when that happens, my depression gets the better of me. I don’t want to be cynical and I say that as someone with great personal familiarity with cynicism.

    I’m fine with you disagreeing with me. If you think that it is a waste of time dealing with HBDers and other race realists, I fully understand that response. I sometimes don’t feel like dealing with all kinds of people. It depends on my mood. I must admit that I haven’t gone out of my way to dialogue with HBDers. I don’t visit even hbdchick’s blog that often. I tend to avoid frustrating encounters when possible, and some of the commenters (such as JayMan) on her blog do frustrate me to no end. I still interact with her some on Twitter, though.

    It just is what it is.

    • I think Myers-Briggs is bullshit, but you sound like a textbook INFP, like you said, 😄 I think your view is maybe a bit naïve, but I digress 🙂 If it works for you…

      Glad you can input Cyrillic letters!

      • I’m also fine with you thinking Myers-Briggs is bullshit. That isn’t an issue I invest my emotions in.

        At one time, I found helpful insight from Myers-Briggs… but I don’t think much about it these days. When I do discuss personality and psychology in more recent posts, I’m more likely to reference the theory and research of other systems, such as the Big 5 and Hartmann’s boundary types. Still, I’d love to see more research done on Myers-Briggs. It is the research part that interests me more than much of the theorizing.

        I understand why you would perceive me as naive. I’ve always had a side of me that holds onto hope, no matter how hopeless things may seem ‘objectively’. I’m an idealist who sometimes verges toward cynicism, but I’ll probably never wander too far from my idealism. It is partly a practical mindset, because if cynicism were to overwhelm me with my depression I’d probably kill my self, no exaggeration intended. My idealism doesn’t exist detached from knowledge of the darkness in the world, the despair and suffering that is sadly too common. It’s a fucked up world, and yet I hope for a better world.

        I guess it works for me. I’m still here, not having killed myself yet.

    • Fundamental problem is, people don’t look at facts objectively.

      Maybe it’s a failure of the education system – no emphasis on critical thinking and the scientific method.

      But maybe it’s a failure of human nature.

      Perhaps it’s both.

      • This is an issue I’ve thought much about. My perspective tends toward that of social science.

        In the research I’ve seen, rationality like all human behavior is highly context-dependent. Activities (e.g., unjumbling word puzzles) can prime people for rational thought and can prime people for non-/irrational thought. Also, environmental conditions can decrease intellectual functioning (e.g., stereotype threat) or increase it (e.g., Pygmalion effect). Furthermore, people are shown to know the facts when they have a financial incentive to admit to the facts:


        What I’ve personally observed is that our society promotes particular activities and upholds particular environmental conditions. Those who control politics and the media have little incentive to promote rationality. People who think rationally can’t easily be manipulated by advertising and political rhetoric. We are constantly bombarded by influences toward non-/irrational thought.

        The failure of democracy isn’t accidental, but intentional. The challenge isn’t trying to make people rational. We know people are capable of rationality, if one wishes to create the conditions and incentives for rationality. The real challenge is whether or not it is possible to create a social, political, and economic system that values rationality… or rather whether or not it is possible to force out of power the ruling elite who personally benefit from an ignorant and misinformed public.

  9. I have an article for you then:

    But beyond that, we get into dangerous, de-stabilizing waters. Societies, be they democratic or not, are not going to encourage critical thinking about prevailing ideologies or government policies. And, if it is the case that most people don’t think of anything critically unless it falls into that local arena in which their lives are lived out, all the better.

    Maybe to a certain extent, all societies organize themselves in such a manner that does not promote such thinking.

    The other issue becomes one of values promoted. We have literally built something close to the Brave New World or perhaps the film, Idiocracy.

    I think that in this regard, Asian society does do better overall. Of course, Asian society has its own shortcomings (very authoritarian and hierarchical).

    But yes, there is very little incentive made to think. It is interesting there in Canada that the scientific method is taught around middle school and it is made the centre of science class, but it’s never too strongly emphasized.

    I suspect though that the “sheep votocracy” mentality is what those at the top want, versus an informed, engaged civil society.

    • Another great article. I agree with the article overall, but for some strange reason I’m an optimist. I think the ignorance and anti-intellectualism was far worse in the past.

      Also, the narrow geographic focus of interest was worst in the past. The Civil War wouldn’t have happened if American’s weren’t so regionally focused in the past. The young generation today is actually quite geographically literate compared to all previous generations.

      Improvement is frustratingly slow, but it does happen. Give us a few more centuries and our society might be ready for attempting and actual functioning democracy. I’m optimistic like that.

  10. There is one matter to consider.

    The article makes the argument that Americans are narrow in their geography because they are on a large isolated continent.

    From my experiences, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealand citizens generally are much better informed (although far from perfect again). I remember reading that on average, Scandinavians are the most informed among the Western world (can’t remember the link though).

    In a few centuries, I imagine that Europe would have evolved further as well. Perhaps even East Asia would have become somewhat more liberal.

    On the other hand, regressions can also happen. If memory serves correctly, the Arabic world did exactly that after being conquered by the Mongolians.

    Generations are influenced by the events around them when they take power. So are societies. At the top though, what is most distressing about the current situation is that the leadership has lost its capacity for self-correction. If anything, willful ignorance has become the bane of politics today.

  11. I was wanting to respond to a comment at the following article:


    But, in a previous comment, the moderator didn’t like me including lots of links. That makes it difficult to have an informed discussion. So, I’ll instead put a bunch of stuff here in this comment here. There is a specific comment I want to respond to—posted by someone with the username Drgrad68:


    I’m never sure how to respond to comments like that. It does seem to be written with honest intentions, as part of the debate. The problem with it is that there is no offering of cited or linked data, quotes, or other info. Other than unreliable anecdotal evidence, I have no idea what is the basis of the opinion and so I have no way of assessing it’s truth value.

    Clinton’s Welfare Reform has shifted those percentages quite a bit because urban Democrats were able to carve out exceptions for their constituents while Republicans who represented rural districts would have loved to have seen the entire system scrapped. Not surprisingly, rural whites were the most likely to be kicked off those systems.

    I’ve never seen a thorough, detailed analysis of the data about Clinton’s Welfare Reform, its specific results in who was most impacted and how. Offhand, I wouldn’t guess that it was rural whites most likely to have been kicked off those systems.

    Whites still represent the largest number of welfare recipients and this is even higher among rural whites, or to state it more simply: Most welfare recipients are non-urban whites. It’s not merely because there is a larger white population. As a percentage of white population compared to percentage of black population, whites have a higher rate of welfare than blacks.

    If more whites loss welfare, it would only have been because the number of whites on welfare in the past was so vastly high, as the welfare system originally was created for whites and by design largely excluded minorities (see When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson and Three Worlds of Relief by Cybelle Fox). What welfare reform did was to remove from the welfare rolls all but the most desperately poor and in the United States the desperately poor have always disproportionately included minorities. Even so, I’ve seen no evidence that it was specifically rural whites among all whites that were hit hardest in welfare reform, considering rural white poverty has become increasingly severe over time even as this is a shrinking (and aging) part of the population.

    What I do know is that Bill Clinton (along with Hillary) played Reagan’s game of dog whistle politics in giving signals that he’d target minorities. I also know that recent decades haven’t been kind to black communities in many ways. Related to reform, when much of the country saw a booming economy in the 1990s, many black communities were descending into severe poverty and mass unemployment that was being worsened by war on drugs, militarization of the police, school-to-prison pipeline, and mass incarceration that destroyed families and ripped to shreds the social fabric. The policies of the Clinton New Democrats have decimated black America.

    What do find funny about the original author’s premise that politicians had to create the specter of the “welfare queen”. No they just tapped into the resentment of those who have some knowledge about the system.

    I have to be straightforward in my response to this. There is no way anyone who knows the history could make such a statement. Sure, racial resentment has existed for a long time in our country. We are a racist country built on racialized slavery, after all. But it has to be acknowledged that politicians intentionally shaped and fed that racial resentment for generations, continuing into the present. Entire books have been written about that topic.

    For example, a relative of mine is a social worker in Louisiana. She originally got into that line of work because she wanted to make a difference and help people. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the time she is dealing with scammers, many of whom do drive better vehicles than the staff (paid for by the ‘baby daddy’- some of which may have worked offshore, some had legally questionable means of employment). She is now jaded and tells of people who have been in this situation for generations. They do not want to better themselves. They want to keep whatever freebies they have coming just like their parents and grandparents did. In the South, it seems as if it’s almost like a way of life. Several co-workers personally know people that are abusing the welfare and/or disability system (one guy said all three of his brothers are on disability. Their ailment according to him: “they’re lazy”. Another has a friend who “is on disability, but does construction on the side and races cars on the weekend”. Another’s wife said she’s the only one on her side of the family that’s not on assistance. Years ago when I was working a night shift, one co-worker was giving another one a hard time: “hey, man…what’s the deal with you black guys..you always seem to have a bunch of kids with your girlfriend(s) and then get married. That’s ass backwards.” “No, man…that’s how you have kids for free” was the response. So, yeah…the politicians didn’t have create anything. They just shined a light on the problem.

    I call bullshit. Anecdotal evidence is meaningless, except when used to provide examples for otherwise abstract data. You can find many other social workers who have complete opposite opinions also based on anecdotal evidence. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to show data that welfare abuse and fraud in the US is extremely high—in fact, higher than found in most other countries and/or higher than found in similar private services. I know you can’t do this or you wouldn’t be pushing anecdotal evidence.

    I have looked at the data. Welfare abuse and fraud is extremely rare. It’s not more common than found in the private sector nor is it more costly than found in other areas of government spending such as corporate subsidies/welfare or Pentagon private contractors. It’s even been shown that public welfare and other public services are quite efficient compared to the private sector, as efficiency has never been the primary motivation of capitalist markets.

    Also, even when fraud occurs, it doesn’t always involve the direct recipient, such as Medicare and Medicaid fraud committed by providers. Fraud rates are actually hard to determine, as what is typically measured are error rates which includes errors made by government agencies. Even when it is the fault of the recipient, it usually isn’t intentional Much of the supposed recipient ‘fraud’ merely involves filling out forms incorrectly, such as accidentally transposing two digits in a social security number. Data on error doesn’t distinguish any of this and it all gets jumbled together, leading many to call it all ‘fraud’.

    Besides, 2 out of 3 welfare recipients are children. And most of the adult welfare recipients are employed and the extra money simply subsidizes low paying jobs (e.g., Walmart workers). Most welfare is temporary, because welfare laws are designed to make it difficult for people to be on welfare continuously.The percentage permanently on welfare is extremely low.

    The only places where one finds long term and intergenerational welfare is in places with long term, intergenerational mass unemployment and severe poverty—because of closing down of factories and mines, outsourcing, offshoring, mechanization, etc. Permanent unemployment has been so high that the government hasn’t measured it since the Reagan administration stopped keeping the data. Few want to know this data because these are jobs never coming back.

    It’s simply the nature of neoliberal globalization, a dominant economic system over which local workers have no influence or control. It hasn’t just negatively effected the working class but also forced out many small business owners and small family farmers. This is seen in other countries as well, such as the economy and wages being worse in Mexico since NAFTA.

    I would point out, though, that the cumulative effects of poverty extend back generations. There is a long and ongoing history of systemic and institutional racism: employment biases, housing loan biases, redlining, sundown towns, wide-scale stolen property, etc; and that just touches the tip of the iceberg.

    Poor blacks experience more severe poverty and economic segregation than poor whites. This is because poor whites are more likely to only be moderate poor, temporarily poor, and/or to live in wealthier communities. Poor whites isolated in rural areas aren’t the typical experience of most poor whites. This is why Sanders made the point that whites don’t understand what it is like to live in ghettos (i.e., racially-motivated and impoverished neighborhood segregation).

    It is harder for a black with a college degree to get a job than a white with a high school degree. It is harder for a black with no criminal record to get a job than a white with a criminal record. It is even worse than that. Even simply having a black-sounding name makes it harder to just get a job interview. And a black hand holding an item for sale in a photograph makes people less likely to buy it.

    For all these reasons, escaping poverty is a thousand times harder for blacks. In many poor black communities, the majority of adults are either unemployed or in prison. Because they are unemployed and welfare reform has made poverty even worse, many turn to black market to make money to pay the bills. But working on the black market leads to a criminal record which makes welfare impossible to get and makes employment even harder to find. This leads to more desperate poverty and an ever growing black market along with crime.

    I sometimes think many Americans who have never personally known either poverty or racism are so disconnected from reality that they are functionally retarded in their moral capacity. There is an evil that has ruled the mainstream American psyche for centuries. It goes so far beyond mere ignorance, willful or otherwise. It’s time for all of us to wake up from this nightmare.

    If anyone happens to want to be better informed, here are some of my previous posts and following that many articles, reports, etc.













































    Click to access P-P_HSUNo39.pdf


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