The Toppling of America: the War of Race and Poverty

In America, we have socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor (Keith Ellison). 

I saw the video of the Texas officer who pulled guns on teens during a pool party raid and thrust his body weight on to the back of an unarmed 14 year old girl in a bathing suit. The imagery is nothing short of violent and hateful. Granted, there were many people and possibly too few police officers, a common story of police officers going into impossibly overcrowded underemployed neighborhoods of the disenfranchised from society. However, the dehumanizing behavior of the officer appeared deeply ingrained, rote, and unthinking.

The systematic dismissal and disposal of the poor, disproportionately black, in this country bespeaks a sick nation.

We created our ghettos from slavery through Jim Crow laws to decades of de-funding programs to help create jobs in poor neighborhoods, and then turned away from the aftermath.  The destruction continues to grow like weeds that strangle the manicured lawn. The “problem” only gets addressed when enough people turn out in the streets (in numbers and with cameras/phones), on the internet and in the voting booths–or when important white people are affected.

Nearly 1.5m African American men are in prison and missing from society due, in large part, to a criminal justice system that locks them up and limits their options upon release (Keith Ellison).

And then the overwhelming outcry of handwringing lamenters begins when the videos of violence appear, “Where are black fathers for the proper raising of their children? Aren’t they partly to blame for the perpetuation of generations of poverty, gangs and crime?” society asks when weighing  in on the current war between black men and cops that sent hordes of the outraged in the streets, in riots and throughout the media.

Leaders in Washington and around the country should have responded to the growing crisis in African American neighborhoods by creating jobs, repairing infrastructure, avoiding bad trade deals that offshored good-paying jobs in many urban areas and investing in our kids. Instead Congress and state legislatures built prisons, passed trade agreements that sent jobs overseas, gave police weapons designed for warzones and passed laws that increased de facto segregation (Keith Ellison).

Instead, leaders in Wasingon give tax breaks to the wealthy to repay their candidacy debts, enter into trade agreements that send jobs overseas, build prisons that are big business money makers on the backs of the poor and arm police with wartime weaponry.

Race is myth. When we stop talking about race, stop believing in race, it will disappear. Except for its career historically and in people’s memories as the antithesis of human freedom, the embodiment of inequality and injustice that remained far too long a toxic, unresolved paradox in nations proclaiming themselves free. In a raceless society color wouldn’t disappear. Difference wouldn’t disappear. Africa wouldn’t disappear. In post-race America “white” people would disappear. That is, no group could assume as birth-right and identity a privileged, supernaturally ordained superiority at the top of a hierarchy of other groups, a supremacy that bestows upon their particular kind the right perpetually to rule and regulate the lives of all other kinds. This idea, this belief in “whiteness,” whether the belief is expressed in terms of color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, tribe, etc., constitutes the founding principle of race, its appeal and its discontents (John Edgar Wideman–“Fatheralong”).

Slavery no longer exists–not in the grossly overt economic commonplace. But the toxic residue appears far more insidious. Wide scale racial prejudice and disdain for the poor incorporated into policy and procedures that permeate every governing institution, every manner of economic operation and opportunity, and every social organizing principle will topple a nation from its bloated top down.

A country is only as strong as its weakest members. Investment starts from the ground up–in people not dollars. The news of cops killing the disporportionately poor and weak will disappear when the majority vote for those who are willing to pay for alleviating the agony of a neglected segment of the population, deciding #Black Lives Matter.



2 Replies to “The Toppling of America: the War of Race and Poverty”

  1. Excellent post. The US in certainly heading toward a reckoning, not only in the hopeful leveling of racial privilege, but in the narrowing of the gap between the rich and poor. Economic oppression is doubly hard on minorities. I am always shocked by the utter lack of empathy and twisted justifications that blame the victims for the legal and moral crimes perpetrated against them. How convenient. And what an effective strategy for avoiding responsibility. The problem is that we are connected and, as you said, only as strong as our weakest members.

    1. Thank you D. I believe there are deeply rooted wars waging insidiously inside the foundational walls of every structure of this society against the poor and the historically marginalized, “minorities” but blacks, notoriously. The privileged few cannot maintain their hold indefinitely. The masses do awaken when the pressure builds, the oppression too long and deep.

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