Both of our political parties use race to take advantage of their constituents. The GOP scares lower-class white people to vote against their class interests by invoking the specter of “big-black-bucks purchasing T-bone steaks with food stamps”, or something. The Democrats snooker their black supporters into sticking with a party that has betrayed them for decades, culminating in a black president–Barack Obama– who presided over the destruction of a generation of black wealth.
Talk about codependency. It’s like watching a pair of abusive relationships play out.
As a result of this cynical abuse of race, America has the most flimsiest of social welfare programs of any western democracy, which suits our feral elite just fine.
It’s ironic that 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated while attempting to united whites and blacks with his Poor Peoples Campaign, race is still dividing America culture, resulting in the horrendous inequality and lousy public services producing mass despair and severe social dysfunction. King understood that much of the animosity between races was stoked deliberately as a way to fracture class unity. When he was assassinated King had shifted his focus to economic issues after observing that gains in civil rights had not improved the material conditions of life for many African-Americans.
I firmly believe that King was assassinated precisely because he had moved beyond simply talking about civil-rights for African-Americans and had trained his focus on the economic and militarized forces that marginalized black and white working-class Americans.
Since King’s assassination both parties have contributed to the structural policies that have seen racism continue. In the 1968 Presidential election Republicans launched their “southern strategy” to win over resentful white Democrats after the civil rights revolution, while Democrats have abandoned workers for the Professional/Management/Class (PMC’s) and substituted Identity Politics for meaningful economic policies. Indeed, the social and economic bargain between labor and capital that brought prosperity for half a century ended suspiciously close to when African-Americans gained civil-rights. The 1940s through the 1970s was a time when Wall Street had lost its power and relevance, and the American economic order was a diversified mix of manufacturing, agriculture, services, social welfare, military equipment, research, and high-technology. Since then there’s been a vicious counter-attack, with race playing a central role. Economic uncertainty is now the order of the day for the vast majority of Americans thanks to the greed of our putative leaders.
Growing economic uncertainty for larger numbers of people puts further stress on already stressed marriage and family and community relationships. White people are encouraged to blame black people for the loss of their jobs rather than the white corporate executives who sent their jobs to China. This was most evident in the deindustrialization of unionized heavy industry. Offshoring steel and automobile production had a special role in fueling racial tensions. White workers usually had a longer tenure of work, and according to union rules would be the last laid off because of this tenure. So offshoring would cause black layoffs first, and then white layoffs. Civil rights groups rightfully understood that as racist, but few recognized the largest context that racial tension was a result of white and black workers feuding over a smaller and smaller pie.
For both political parties, divide and rule are the order of the day. Both parties, controlled by predatory financial elites, have worked aggressive to break our public institutions so that we can’t collectively do politics.
Going forward we have two paths. Restoring a stable social contract broadly will mean restoring the ability to do politics, to rearrange our productive capacity in ways that are safer, more efficient, and more fair, which will necessarily mean a reorganization of power. Or it will require a far more authoritarian society, one in which we accept a much higher level of security spending to protect a narrow elite from a disempowered and angry populace.
The riots are a start in that they got our feral elites attention. Americans are showing the rich and powerful the limits of their power and that of their violent militarized police, and our elite are making concessions. However, while police and social reform are long overdue, calls for abolishment or defunding the police are crazy and will play into the strength of Trump and the “law and order” crowd. Not only that but it’s dangerous. It poses a real threat to working class neighborhoods that would be disproportionately impacted by such a radical action. Defunding the police would put every American at greater risk of bodily injury from individual or gang violence. The rich can pay for their own security, but that’s not a luxury working people can afford. Going further, privatizing the police would be a neoliberal wet dream, something our Ayn Rand loving, tech-libertarians have wanted for ages. They would be perfectly happy to use these protests to make it happen.
If history is a guide these protests are more of our dysfunctional political codependency and represent the triumph of “woke” neoliberalism that has subsumed the Democratic Party. Instead of uniting us in a fierce battle against Wall Street and its broad daylight robbery of what is left of American wealth, “woke” neoliberals are promoting a race war. Their silence on Wall Street looting is hardly an accident. They are supported financially and by Wall Street and global financiers. This funding means that, in practice, they operate as a controlled opposition. They maintain their relevance by sustaining social and racial tensions that draw attention away from Wall Street and its crimes.
Combating America’s police brutality and racial discrimination are vitally important but fueling a race conflict is the worst possible path toward eliminating both racism and discrimination. Such a tactic will only deepen the divide that already splits the American working class.
Instead the focus should be on inequality and the massive looting operation that Wall Street is conducting. The focus should be on universal economic policies that unite all Americans without regard to race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Dr. King showed us the way 50 years ago.