Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Recommended Reading

I was tired of the "white poor middle America is very sad" articles before Lord Dampnut was even elected, but this one is different. In this one, it's a black man touring "Maine to Mississippi" to talk to everyone from white liberals to white supremacists, including Richard Spencer and his glass of bourbon.

My travels in white America – a land of anxiety, division and pockets of pain

What I also like about this article, and undoubtedly this is because it was written by a black man, is that it tempers the straight descriptions of white sadness and quotes from disaffected white people with reality. It explains what white privilege actually is and that most of these sad middle America whites don't understand the concept. For example, on the opioid addiction problem:

“If you are white and middle class, it’s much easier to remove the negative consequences of a use disorder,” Kieszulas explained. “You’re less likely to go to jail, less likely to have any kind of negative criminal consequence. I myself don’t have a criminal record. I did some very interesting things to support my habit and to find relief. And transitioning out of that without a criminal record at all? I think it speaks for itself.”

It also explains perfectly how white privilege translated directly into white pain when that privilege failed to save so many from poverty, and how my fellow white people couldn't handle the myth of the "American dream" being taken away from them. Meanwhile, black Americans have always understood that even the myth was never meant to apply to them.

If there’s one thing that 200 years of slavery and 100 years of segregation did for African Americans, it was to temper their investment in the myth that the US is a meritocracy. The notion that if you worked hard and kept your nose clean, you would get on was always stymied by the grim realities of racial barriers. “America was never America to me,” wrote the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes in 1935’s Let America Be America Again. “There’s never been equality for me / Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free’.”

Another thing that stood out to me is the idea that poor whites have nobody to advocate for us. Apparently, we don't have the same strong communities as, for example, black neighborhoods, and so we elected Donald Trump?

Whereas African Americans in the north-east of the city had strong churches and campaigning organisations, he explained, the poorer white areas had few champions. 
“Nobody speaks up for the poor,” said Jamie Walsh, a white working-class woman who grew up in Muncie, explaining Trump’s appeal to those she grew up with on Muncie’s Southside. “There is systemic racism, but black people have advocates. Poor white people don’t.

We do, actually. It's just that we don't have advocacy groups dedicated specifically to poor white people, because the white part of that is not a barrier. We need groups for poor people of color because the color part causes additional problems because of racism. We actually might have organizations that specifically help poor white people now, but these groups are (surprise!) white supremacist in nature.

There are advocacy groups for the poor in general. The issue is that many of these are quickly labeled "socialist" or whatever, and some of them are explicitly socialist, communist, or generally anti-capitalist. Because that's what the problem is. The root cause of general poverty in this society is capitalism. If you're black and poor, groups dedicated to fighting racism might improve your  situation. But racism isn't in the way of us white people, so the only real way to fight our poverty is to fight capitalism.

And if there legitimately are not any general anti-poverty groups in an area, then you know who can advocate for us, fellow whites? We can. I cannot possibly give a number of the times I've been told that if marginalized groups want X they should make it themselves. Can we not put our money where our mouth is? Work to create a general poor people advocacy group, and see how fast you realize that capitalism is indeed the problem, and rich white men like Donald Trump do not and never will be an advocate for us.

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