Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reluctantly using Cory Doctorow to illustrate how the left is often fuzzy on race and class

I've met Cory Doctorow a few times, and I've always thought he's a smart, nice guy, the sort who makes the world a better place. I like his work, both on BoingBoing and off it. He's said some astonishingly sweet things about mine. He often provides essential information about the political world—if you haven't read Where the #trumpwon trend came from (not Russia), go read it now.

So when I use him as an example of fuzzy thinking in a specific case, it's not intended to diminish him in any way. I was tempted to say nothing, but he's offered a perfect example of the way the left often conflates race and class, and he's done it at BoingBoing, which gets a gazillion hits a day. Since it's so very public, I've decided to go ahead.

In What it's like to register to vote in states with voter suppression law, he wrote
Who lacks the ID needed to vote? Poor people and brown people and poor brown people. 11% of the US voting population (more than 22 million people), mostly black and/or Latin@ and/or poor and/or students and/or old people."
The voter ID law doesn't hinder the ability of a single middle or upper class black or brown or Hispanic person to vote. It only hinders the ability of poor people of all hues, a group that isn't "mostly black and/or Latin@". In the US, there are twice as many poor whites as poor blacks or poor Hispanics. When poor white and black people are treated the same, the problem isn't racism. The problem is the oldest form of oppression, the oppression of the poor by the rich.

This isn't to say the people who passed the law aren't racist. It's to say they don't like "white trash" any more than any of the other people they consider disposable. Sharon Smith pointed out a commonly overlooked aspect of voter suppression during Jim Crow in Race, class, and "whiteness theory":
When the racist poll tax was passed in the South, imposing property and other requirements designed to shut out Black voters, many poor whites also lost the right to vote. After Mississippi passed its poll tax law, the number of qualified white voters fell from 130,000 to 68,000.
Rich conservatives especially hate the white poor because the white poor don't support them. Paul Krugman noted in Bubba Isn't Who You Think - The New York Times:
...income levels seem to matter much more for voting in the South. Contrary to what you may have read, the old-fashioned notion that rich people vote Republican, while poorer people vote Democratic, is as true as ever – in fact, more true than it was a generation ago. But in rich states like New Jersey or Connecticut, the relationship is weak; even the very well off tend to be only slightly more Republican than working-class voters. In the poorer South, however, the relationship is very strong indeed.
Related: Why #BlackLivesMatter should be #PoorLivesMatter—now with graphics

ETA: This is the article Cory was discussing: US Election 2016: Voter ID laws threaten lifelong voters - BBC News

ETA 2: That article includes another example of conflating race and class:
Estimates suggest that 11% of eligible voters in the United States lack one of the forms of photo ID that are generally required by these strict photos ID laws, and they are disproportionately black, Latino, low income, students and elderly voters.
As I hope everyone knows, those are the groups that are disproportionately poor in the US. But there's no evidence offered that black and Latino people disenfranchised by restrictive voting laws are racially disproportionate to the poor in those states. And logically, they can't be, because no one in those states is running special buses or offering special funds to make it easier for the white poor to vote.

ETA 3: I disagree with Politifact's conclusion because we know the names of some of the people disenfranchised by these laws, and we know that voting is reduced in states with these laws, but this is still interesting: Rep. Marcia Fudge says 11 percent of eligible voters lack a government ID

ETA 4: Study Finds Republican Voter Suppression Is Even More Effective Than You Think