Saturday, August 6, 2011

the selective acknowledgment of class by anti-racists, part 2

At my previous post on the subject, an Anonymous left two links:

How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America | Pew Social & Demographic Trends

Affluent African-Americans Live in Poorer Neighborhoods Than Middle-Class Whites - The Wealth Report - WSJ

They're both useful, but neither takes the second step in analyzing race and class in the USA: they provide stats on class and stats on race, but they don't compare people by both. Here's what socialists and capitalist anti-racists agree on: because of the US's history of racism, the class system is racially disproportionate.

But that doesn't mean the class system is racist today. To address that question, you must compare working-class blacks with working-class whites, middle-class blacks with middle-class whites, and upper-class blacks with upper-class whites.

When leaving those links, the Anonymous said:
vs. the selective acknowledgement of race by people like you who want to be selectively racist and who never want to acknowledge that it's impossible to talk about class in America without factoring in past effects of racism on the present
My reply:
Actually, Anonymous, I constantly talk about race when talking about class. Something I regularly quote from Thandeka's The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy: "...we must not forget that white racism was from the start a vehicle for classism; its primary goal was not to elevate a race but to denigrate a class. White racism was thus a means to an end, and the end was the defense of Virginia’s class structure and the further subjugation of the poor of all "racial" colors."

In fact, whenever I talk about class and the past, I stress that the reason modern poverty is racially disproportionate is because of the history of racism

However, here's something anti-racists can't answer: How do you solve the problem of poverty without redistributing wealth for people regardless of gender or race? After all, as has been true since Martin Luther King's day, there are twice as many white people living in poverty as black people.

Now, I do appreciate those links. Two things I'll point out:

1. In "Affluent African-Americans Live in Poorer Neighborhoods Than Middle-Class Whites", that choice is a choice. People who are more concerned with ethnicity than class will choose ethnically similar neighborhoods. That's true for Asians and Jews and others, as well as black folks. But as people like Obama and Condi Rice and OJ Simpson show, many rich blacks choose neighborhoods where class matters more than race.

2. "How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America" does the breakdown by race, but it does not do a class breakdown within race. Because blacks and Hispanic-Americans come disproportionately from poverty, they have less wealth, and so they suffer more than richer folks. But do black newcomers to the middle class suffer more than white Americans who recently came out of poverty? Do upper class blacks suffer more than upper class whites? Do lower class blacks suffer more than lower class whites?

There's one fascinating stat in there: the proportion of whites and blacks who identify as part of the upper class is now the same, 20%.