Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Class trumps race in the US—a link fest

I often meet race reductionists (people who focus exclusively on race) who insist they're intersectionalists (people who believe different forms of social oppression like racism and sexism are unrelated and only "intersect" when someone is, for example, black and female). Now, I'm not in either group—I'm a universalist who thinks all social oppression is interrelated and springs from the social hierarchies that develop with many agricultural societies. (While we don't have time machines handy, a look at egalitarian tribal peoples like the Iroquois shows that sexism and racism are not part of human nature.)

Here are a few articles indicating that class trumps race in the US today:

1. In education:

No Rich Child Left Behind -
Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.
When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race - The Atlantic:
According to a 2011 research study by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon, the test-score gap between the children of the poor (in the 10th percentile of income) and the children of the wealthy (in the 90th percentile) has expanded by as much as 40 percent and is now more than 50 percent larger than the black-white achievement gap--a reversal of the trend 50 years ago.
2. In health:

In health, income has greater impact than race | New Pittsburgh Courier:
even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.
Socioeconomic Factors Trump Race and Geography for Odds of Living to Old Age - Observations - Scientific American Blog Network:
By studying survival beyond 70 on a county-by-county basis, a team of researchers found that a combination of social factors, such as education, marital status and income, were much more predictive than race or geography alone.
The stunning — and expanding — gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor - The Washington Post

3. In the prison system:

From “The Crime of Being Poor”:
White prisoners tend to share one thing with their black and Hispanic compatriots: poverty. Most prisoners report incomes of less than $8,000 a year in the year prior to coming to prison. A majority were unemployed at the time of their arrest.
From “The rich get richer and the poor get prison”:
Among those entering prison in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school.
4. In geographic location:

In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters -
Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.
Not here, surely? | The Economist:
Virtually all of the 20 poorest counties in America, in terms of wages, are on the eastern flank of the Rockies or on the western Great Plains.... The area does include several pockets of wretched Native American poverty, but in most areas the poor are as white as a prairie snowstorm.
5. In internet access:

Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access : Code Switch : NPR

6. In general:

Robert Putnam: Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America - The Atlantic includes observations like:
The class gap over the last 20 years in unmarried births, controlling for race, has doubled, and the racial gap, controlling for class, has been cut in half. Twenty years ago the racial gap was the dominant gap in unmarried births -- and now the class gap is by far.
Now, race reductionists like Tim Wise love to claim that Marxists are class reductionists. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor refutes that nicely in Race, class and Marxism |
To claim, as Marxists do, that racism is a product of capitalism is not to deny or diminish its importance or impact in American society. It is simply to explain its origins and the reasons for its perpetuation. Many on the left today talk about class as if it is one of many oppressions, often describing it as "classism." What people are really referring to as "classism" is elitism or snobbery, and not the fundamental organization of society under capitalism.
Or as Adolph Reed Jr. notes in The limits of anti-racism:
Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism  frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it.
ETA: A little about Iroquois women, wealth, and power

ETA 2: The widening class gap in black violent crime