Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A question identitarians don't ask: Why are poor white people poor?

Identitarians say poor women are poor because of sexism and poor people of color are poor because of racism, but they don't talk about why poor white people are poor.  Yet the number of white Americans who fail to benefit economically from white privilege is huge. In 2012, Robert Ross wrote in Poverty More than a Matter of Black and White:
Collapsing poor and black as if all poor were black and all blacks poor turns the “poverty” problem into a “race” problem.

The white poverty rate does run much lower than the black rate, just under 10  percent, one-third of the black rate. But the white poor outnumber the black poor considerably, 19 to 7.8 million. White people make up 42 percent of America’s poor, black people about 28 percent.

The basic numbers don’t change when we look at people living in extreme poverty, in households making less than 50  percent of the meager poverty line. Of the 20 million people who live at this alarming level of want and deprivation, about 42 percent are white, 27  percent black.
Because class mobility in the US is so limited, the ratio of white and black people in poverty has not changed since 1967, when Martin Luther King said,
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
The identitarian understanding of capitalism implies that poor white people are too stupid to compete even though they have white privilege. Some identitarians admit that; see Two examples of black identitarians mocking poor white people. The idea that the poverty of poor white people proves their inferiority is probably as old as the idea of race. We have an example from 1833: Fanny Kemble wrote in her diary, "The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash'."

ETA: Every group in poverty has a unique historical reason for being there. Yet Martin Luther King knew the solutions are all the same: end poverty with Basic Income.

Recommended:

Mass Incarceration: New Jim Crow, Class War, or Both? – People's Policy Project:
Overall, this study supports the view of Cedric Johnson and others that mass incarceration in the United States is primarily a system of locking up lower class men—one which ends up disproportionately imprisoning black men, since they are far more likely to be lower class than white men. Racial disparities remain among certain incarceration outcomes, which are consistent with findings of other studies on this topic, but it is nevertheless class that is the predominant factor.
The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now:
At the heart of contemporary organizing is the notion of black exceptionalism. Contemporary Black Lives Matter activists and supporters insist on the uniqueness of the black predicament and on the need for race-specific remedies. “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza explains. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity and our resistance in the face of deadly oppression.”1 “When we say black lives matter,” Garza continues, “we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement [that] Black poverty and genocide [are] state violence.” This essay takes aim at this notion of black exceptionalism and lays out its origins and limits as an analysis of hyperpolicing and, more generally, as an effective political orientation capable of building the popular power needed to end the policing crisis.