Tuesday, May 11, 2010

who wants inequality that "looks like America"?

Two favorite bits from Walter Benn Michael's IDENTITY POLITICS: A Zero-Sum Game:
About three quarters of the job losers in the current recession have been men, which means that the numbers of men and women in the workforce are now roughly equal. So, from the standpoint of gender equity, the recession has actually been a good thing. It's as if, unable to create more jobs for women, we'd hit upon the strategy of eliminating lots of the jobs for men—another victory for feminism and for anti-discrimination since, from the standpoint of anti-discrimination, the question of how many people are unemployed is completely irrelevant. What matters is only that, however many there are, their unemployment is properly proportioned.

This is, in part, a logical point: there's no contradiction between inequality of class and equality of race and gender. It is also, however, a political point.
although real progress in the direction of greater economic equality would be more beneficial to poor blacks and Hispanics than would complete economic parity with white people, the goal of economic parity with whites works a lot better for black and Hispanic elites. Indeed it works pretty well for white elites too: which would you rather do—welcome some women and minorities to your board of directors, or not have a board of directors at all?
It's short, and I'm in danger of quoting half of it, so go read it now.