Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Better For Whom?


I do agree with you that the state of race relations has improved over our lifetimes. So does the President. I was born the year Brown v Board of Education was decided. Since then overt discrimination on the basis of race has been outlawed. Expression of racial animus within the public sphere is no longer tolerated. African Americans occupy honored places in politics, the arts and sciences  entertainment, academia, and the media that would have been unthinkable a short time ago.  

And yet.

Economic and political progress remains limited for most African Americans. By any measure they are poorer than whites, and the gap has increased in the wake of the Great Recession. They achieve less education. They live less healthy lives and they die sooner. The criminal justice system systematically punishes them disproportionately for the same crimes as compared to whites. The proportion of black men <35 yrs of age incarcerated any given time defies belief.  

By and large the Republican Party's answer for all this is blame African Americans for their own troubles, to deny that racism in any form still exists in the country, and take every opportunity to limit their political power.

It's not, alas, as if the Democrats do much better despite a lot of lip service, or that poor whites are faring much better than poor blacks. As Thomas Edsall (whom I deeply admire) writes in today's column:

"All of which brings us back to the question of why there is so little rebellion against entrenched social and economic injustice.

The answer is that those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t."


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