This post goes hand in hand with my previous; Disproving Misleading Statistics and Analyzing the Harm of Identity Politics
Many white Americans don’t give too much thought to what other ethnic groups income is in comparison to theirs, and this goes across the board for many Americans in general. There isn’t a consideration for conditions beyond your personal material life, and I believe that a lot of ignorance in regards to the actual struggle and poor living conditions for millions of Americans goes unnoticed because the average person is too wrapped up in their own life, only experiencing the comforts they may have. However when we examine the overall distribution of generational wealth it becomes clear just how lopsided the scale is; like a luxury sedan with its tire parked firmly on one end as people cling to the raised platform on the other side.
The self centered nature of our lives coupled with the propaganda fed to us from a young age that people have more opportunity here than any other country, (agitprop pushed by Fox and others such as Enes Kanter changing his name to Mr. Freedom…), leads many to live in relative comfort while blind to the struggles of the majority because they believe anyone can earn enough to be comfortable, they just need to stop being lazy. Thus as we examine identity politics it is very important to understand the distribution of wealth because a lot of the mythos on the right says that pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is possible for everyone no matter the resources or familial support. I’ve addressed this previously in talking about college and the destruction of entrepreneurship, but let’s dive in a little further to the demographics of wealth and examine how white supremacy has been solidified the American identity in outright and subtle ways.
Per every $100 that white families make, black families earn $57.30 in comparison. Even more telling; for every $100 of white familial or generational wealth, black families only hold $5.04. Below are the results of a survey conducted by Yale as to where Americans think racial equality is (gray dots) in comparison to the reality of racial equality. (pink dots)
How do you expect black neighborhoods to make money and save it when the average college educated African American makes nearly 20% less than their white counterparts? (NOT as a factor of “choosing the wrong careers” either). Not to mention their communities are under constant racial attack, having what little generational wealth they have built up stolen from them over and over in horrific incidents like the Tulsa massacre. Black families have been forced into the worst neighborhoods, living in destitute areas because white populations forced them out through policies like redlining and the gentrification that followed, then being attacked and hunted when caught in the wrong neighborhoods. Not only do ‘sundown towns’ still exist in force, there are thousands of them across the country. In 2017 the NAACP issued a travel warning for the entire state of Missouri, referring to data that showed black motorists as 75% more likely to be pulled over and searched.
The social fabric of these towns is steeped in white supremacy still, people living in willful bubbles and refusing to experience diversity in favor of fear mongering its effects from their homes. Much of this is because America has a strange inclination that the diaspora of racism is limited to the south; despite this notion white supremacy’s tendrils touch every city and state. The town of Anna, one sundown town among hundreds in Illinois alone, was founded by folks from Missouri in the Civil War era and has a history of deep racist violence and lynchings, to the point that only two nonwhite people lived there until the 40’s and its population of 4000 is still 97% white. It’s name was created as a moniker. It stands for Ain’t No N***** Allowed, a phrase that was posted just under its green and white population sign until 60 or so years ago. Similar to virtually every conservative state, the police chief, mayor, and a majority of the citizens have the stance that racism is dead in this country, they claim that in over 35 or 40 years in Anna they haven’t seen a single incident involving race, that the name of the town isn’t “the Anna they know,” with the police chief even proclaiming, “I don’t see skin color…I worked nights…I can’t tell what color anybody is at night.”
In 2013 four young white men assaulted a black 16 year old, beating and attempting to sodomize him with a tire iron. Confederate flags drape store fronts, ‘copperheads’ still live shamelessly, and 18 year old Gavin Tripp recalls how he was leaving the grocery store when someone pulled up, rolled down their window and shouted “You’re a N***** lover!” because he was dating a biracial girl. Ralph Smith, a black resident outside of Anna, explained how he frequently gets called derogatory racial slurs. 61 year old James Taylor remembered how in his younger days, “you weren’t allowed up here [in Anna] after dark, period.” Several years ago white high school students created an anonymous Instagram account that posted pictures of minority students and wrote derogatory captions, including calling one young wrestling star the N-word and Anna’s ‘Jackie Robinson.’ After the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 citizens came forward asking the county to adopt statutes against hate crimes but was rejected, with the board chairman telling her, “The more you talk about it [race relations], it just creates that issue more…I just don’t think it was worth talking about.”
The board that made this statement is all white. As is the entire police department, every teacher and faculty at the High school, and the city council. Despite small town America being the most rapidly diversifying area, specifically in the Midwest, the prevailing attitude among the white people who have lived there for generations (through lynchings and Civil Rights) is that everyone needs to just move forward and stop “picking the scab” by bringing up their past racism. They believe that full denial of race, in the same vein as colorblind policies, is the only productive way to progress because revisiting the problem doesn’t help.
Black, asian, latino, and other minority families have vastly different priorities on their minds than their white counterparts and it isn’t just a question of economic access. Feeling pressured to constantly be on their best behavior, living up to the “model minority” stereotype that impacts Asians especially, worrying about if they can have friends or family visit because their community is mostly white, etc. This is their reality because racism has not magically disappeared in America, and they know people look for any excuse to allow it to rear its ugly head. This is due to the harmful stereotypes that have infected us, driven by what one Anna resident rightfully identified as people not having “enough education or just haven’t been around a lot.” I would add that people simply don’t think about the world outside of their little bubbles, giving no consideration to what others may be living through as a consequence of their ingrained bias. Then they further refuse to address it and go into denial the second any mention of race is brought up. Many people are like the Anna sheriff; they believe in a colorblind world where they can pretend prejudice doesn’t exist.
As a result of ingrained racism in institutions like law enforcement and education and underlying poverty from lack of generational wealth, African American men have a 40% higher mortality rate than white men between the ages of 0 – 70. Narrowing the range from birth to the age of 40 brings that disparity up to 230%. This isn’t some random result, America has been intentionally structured to push POC into specific neighborhoods, criminalize them, and target them with oppressive policing or predatory financial schemes that keep communities in debt, such as subprime loans in the 2000’s. Unfortunately discrimination is done along racial lines, so we have to call attention to the fact that race is a factor.
In an ideal world we wouldn’t think twice about race or gender or sexuality validating or negating an identity, but unfortunately, there is a lot of ingrained bias in how America approaches these groups because white supremacy was a foundational concept to our nation. Our institutions and leaders have systematically consolidated power for centuries; remember civil and LGBTQ rights haven’t been legally enshrined for more than 55 years and their communities are still discriminated against. Gay marriage wasn’t even legal until 2015! (I have a lot of writing outlining the plight of indigenous, LGBTQ, Asians, etc. within America that I’ll be making posts about soon).
When you start to understand the historical disadvantages people have and apply analysis for how we can build a collective movement to actually solve them in the modern day, yes race and other categorizations need to be discussed because it is how people have been systematically disenfranchised. By acknowledging our inequities we can move past them, having conversations rather than holding it all in and letting it fester is a good thing, but people find excuses to rebuff “wokeness” because it makes them uncomfortable with the reality of our past.
Rather than sitting in a privileged bubble, people who defend their biases with misleading statistics need to actually get out in the world and do research to see the real impact that America’s white supremacy has had on communities, even predominantly white ones. Just because you may not believe America has been influenced by white supremacy doesn’t mean it hasn’t been, and you can’t make that reality go away by trying to flip the script and say that now we are TOO woke or too cognizant of inequality. It’s not bad to be white, or any other ethnicity, but ignoring reality in preference for our little bubbles and handpicking the stats that support it directly is. As we continue to challenge the status quo of power structures there will be much more reactionary pseudo intellectual jargon that desperately wishes to reinforce our status quo and shun ‘non-normal’ identities. I hope readers realize you would either have to be naive, trying to assuage your own feelings of white guilt, or a white supremacist yourself to try and argue that it’s purely the SJW media’s fault we’re noticing inequality and coming to reckon with it. Yes there are leftist groups that become militant in their advocacy for equality and even flip the script to act like the right does (the horseshoe effect), but the average person who thinks empathetically simply wants the majority to see how our peers are struggling and help come to a consensus on addressing it.
There is only the veneer of social and civil rights progress within the U.S. as mass incarceration, policing, economic, and voting disenfranchisement continue to this day, contributing to the oppressive reality of life for POC and lower classes in America. We have to start celebrating the history and accomplishments of all cultures, empower people from all communities instead of trivializing them and their icons. This country has consistently refused to see African Americans and other minority groups as anything more than the color of their skin, hyper focusing on the ways in which their lifestyles or culture is different and somehow lesser than Anglo-Saxons (WASPs).
Sadly, white supremacy will always impact African Americans the most. Groups such as hispanics or Arabs can be considered white over time, but the black community will always bear the brunt of America’s prejudice and hatred. There have been laws throughout our history that reinforce this inhuman view, such as the 3/5ths compromise, or the one drop rule that dictated anybody with an African ancestor was tainted and not of pure heart. This was eventually consolidated under Plessy v. Ferguson to dictate that if your genetics consisted of ⅛ or more African DNA then you were legally viewed as black, and therefore lesser. These actions all serve to wear people down and reinforce the feeling that they are somehow less than human. The reality is that genetics are so intermingled among different populations it literally does not matter, we are all one race, one species. Yet many Americans unfortunately have bias due to the white supremacist aspects of identity ingrained throughout our generational histories.
I wanted to go a little more in depth on the genetic aspects of us all being the same race, because I find it interesting and people may not realize how trivial identity by skin color really is. Over 55% of African Americans have at least 12.5% of their ancestry from European genetics, and the average percentage of “whiteness” is about 18%, or at least 22 white ancestors when looking back 5+ generations. Even President Obama is somehow only viewed as a black man while he has 50% white ancestry, and was the target of a massive racial agitation campaign spearheaded by conspiracy nuts (and Trump) to delegitimize his presidency by falsely claiming he was born in Kenya. People couldn’t bear to look at pictures of Obama because they perceived an African American gaining power as endangering the status quo, especially if he could be president.
The thing is, skin color was determined by where people settled according to the strength of UV rays, so as we branched out from our ancestral home of Africa people closer to the equator maintained dark pigmentation while Europeans and people in colder areas lost pigmentation to maintain a vitamin D balance. Race is a purely constructed identifier to judge people based on appearance, while in reality it means nothing more than what the sunlight levels were where your ancestors lived. Over time the term of whiteness has been expanded to fit other demographics in order to maintain a strict hierarchy in America; think about how Italians, Poles, Slavs, and now hispanics used to be considered nonwhite, ‘dirty’ in the eyes of white supremacy. They’ve now achieved ‘white’ status in the eyes of the ruling class so that they could maintain the necessary racial lines for them to stay in power. The only group that will never be ‘white’ one day are black people, because they are and always will be considered at the bottom of America’s hierarchy. Unless the status quo changes, which we can do.
We are all one race, the human race, and there are no biological differences between us other than the prejudices we make up about each other in our heads to feel superior and assuage vulnerable egos.
White supremacist influenced American identity and its zero sum ideology tell us that any African American success, ancestry, or positive action for black communities harms America. For that matter, it tells us that any group’s prosperity outside of the upper crust will hurt the country, even when poor white people become empowered they still aren’t truly the ‘right white’ until they fully assimilate to the establishment’s will. This is because America is the upper class’s country; they are the only ones who have historically benefitted from our inception, and elites do not want the oppressed who don’t look or act like them to have any chance of equality because zero sum (and prejudiced) thought tells them it would poison the pool of infinite resources while taking opportunity from their in group.
As an example, things like affirmative action are portrayed as a disadvantage for white children. In reality these types of policies statistically help all communities because they introduce diversity and different points of view, leading to well rounded individuals who can understand many different cultures empathetically. Upper and upper middle class white families have so much more generational wealth saved up that it is reasonable to expect they may not have as many opportunities for financial aid, since they wouldn’t notice the cost compared to an African American kid with equitable qualifications who is statistically less likely to be able to afford the astronomical expenses that higher education incurs. Under the District of Columbia Emancipation Act loyal Union slave owners received $300 per slave, over $8,000 today. Slave owners literally got reparations for losing their human property while the most help ex-slaves were offered was $100 per head to emigrate out of the U.S. to Haiti or Africa.
Any time 40 acres and a mule type reparations are brought up people become outraged because that’s unfair and takes from whites while giving to blacks in a zero sum world. Meanwhile white supremacy is so ingrained in our society, modern Republicans such as Larry Elder or Candice Ownes, two African Americans, argue that present generations of previous slave holders should be compensated millions based on the UK model of emancipation.
Again, anything that would suggest going against this status quo of white supremacy dominating savage capitalism receives extreme pushback. Under my philosophy and social capitalism/socialism, the goal isn’t taking opportunities, only opening them to communities that have historically been denied access.
I don’t believe in quotas and the most qualified should undoubtedly have a given position, but we need to create a system in which everyone has the opportunity to educate themselves, build wealth, and have the chance to be qualified if they desire to be, not held back by the conditions forced upon them from historical oppression. Yet many Americans have been so thoroughly brainwashed by neoliberal and racist norms here that they think any opportunity for another is something taken from them, even if they make $40k a year selling cars. Were we to address the feudalist structure that exists, it would pave the way to allow a true meritocracy, but challenging that existing structure entails addressing our relationships to white supremacy and capital growth, which most Americans have closed their minds off to.
America will always try to find a way to try and disenfranchise African Americans or POC based on identity, making it harder for them to own houses, minimizing their voices, and slandering their communities with racial stereotypes from propaganda, cornering minority and poor communities off to be essentially a developing state within the country itself. That is why it’s important for movements like Pride and BLM, to preserve the autonomy of those communities and recognize the struggles they’ve been through. Aid is necessary to elevate these communities out of the historical holes we’ve dug them into, yes, even poor white populations, and if your family survived horrible oppression for years wouldn’t you celebrate surviving too? I want to emphasize that virtually no American outside the top 10% has control over their lives, but black and minority communities have been held at the bottom of the hierarchy and are at the most immediate threat of losing what little autonomy they do have.
Thanks for reading, I apologize for not posting for a couple weeks. I will be hitting you with a flurry of posts to make up for it during the next few days though!
- “The Legend of ANNA,” Jaffe, Logan. 2019. ProPublica/The Atlantic.
- “Sundown Towns are still a problem for black drivers,” Onibaba, Ade, 2021.
- “Key Findings on the rise in income inequality within America’s racial and ethnic groups,” Kochhar, Rakesh & Cilluffo, Anthony, 2018.
- “Where is America diversifying fastest? Small midwestern towns,” McCormick, John & Overberg, Paul, 2021.
- Badger, Emily. NY Times 2017.
- A couple others for the statistics I can’t remember though, shit.