Rethinking Race and Class

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katrina refugee

The first bus of refugees arrives in Houston on August 31 [© 2005Katya Horner, all rights reserved]

Come the storm, it’s poor, aged, dependent and mostly black people who turn up in the catch basin of the Superdome. Forty years after the Voting Rights Act and Lyndon Johnson’s assault on poverty, we are shocked — shocked! — at the evidence of black powerlessness. But we must be ready for a new conversation on these old themes, with a fresh cast of thinkers. We will start our own Open Source conversation next week with, among others, the independent African-American economist Marcellus Andrews, who wrote to us provocatively the other day:

A real conservative government is a necessarily constructive enterprise that seeks to bind the past to the future in ways that preserve culture and institutions that are essential for dignified human being not a rapacious gang that encourages the stripping of the human and natural environment in search of profit and power with no heed for tomorrow or the social ties and rituals that binds us all together.

This is not a Hobbesian leviathan brooding over an unruly mob, using force to keep order while making sure the everyone can pursue their lives with a decent degree of security but a mafia lying to one group (genuinely conservative, frightened white Christians) while abusing another (gays, blacks, enemies of one sort or another) all the while stealing everything.

I worry that an America awakened briefly to race will either fall asleep again or even let its attention to the race/class nexus blind it to the bigger game in town: the fact that a pirate army has seized public power and is plundering all institutions and all resources because it has no concern at all with the needs of the American nation, much less the rest of the world.

Marcellus Andrews

Who are the most provocative analysts weve never heard of on the race-class nexus after Katrina?

Update, 9/19 1:13 pm

Good minds — or pehaps people who read and listen to similar newpapers and radio shows — think alike. Leon Wynter will be joining us in our Boston studio, so tune in, Cassandra, and thank you.

Marcellus Andrews

Economist, New America Foundation

Author, The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America

[In a studio in New York City]

Leon Wynter

Assistant professor of journalism at Emerson College

Author, American Skin

[In our Boston studio]

Update, 9/19 4:55 pm

We got an email this afternoon from Echidne, who writes at Echidne of the Snakes.

I think a lot could be learned by relaxing the U.S. centered view on the problem and by asking what happens to the poor in other parts of the world in similar situations. This helps to see the similarities and the differences between the Katrina disaster and others, and also reminds us that the U.S. experience may not be that different in all respects from what happens in general when race and class interact…

Leon Wynter

Leon Wynter (left) and Chris [Brendan Greeley]

Update, 9/19 7:41 pm

Leon Wynter just recommended a book by Thomas Shapiro, The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality

Update, 9/19 7:56 pm

Chris just brought up a book by Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools


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  • nother

    Am I the only one who sincerely attempts to watch the confirmation hearings, yet is distracted and disheartend by the familar sight of old white men! I’m so tired of rating the “progress” of race matters, when the fundemental dynamic has not even been budged. Old white men still dominate somthing as front and center as the Senate… and this is not even questioned in the media. All they’re missing is the white wigs to cover up the comb-overs.

    Why the lack of change???

    Maybe just maybe, and I know this sounds crazy, could it be that the mainstream media is controlled by old white men? Ok, now if I use my unofficial checklist, goverment/whiteoldmen- CHECK, media/whiteoldmen- CHECK, coporate America/whiteoldmen- CHECK.

    Chris, it took me a while, but I’m finally coming around to the concept of this blogging. It will take unconventional thoughts and ideas to infilltrate some of bull____ that we have not begun to question. The perspective MUST change. We need a different ledge in which to view the horizion. “Lo! on the other side rises also a man and draws a circle around the circle we had just pronounced the outling of the sphere.” Emerson

    This blanket of ennui could lift from the voices of reason out here, if only there is that flicker of hope. Thanks for holding a match Chris.

  • cassandra

    Now I am sure Leon Wynter, Assistant professor of Journalism at Emerson College, is not someone who hasn’t been heard of in this context but I hope you will have him on the show. If not this time around, consider having him on for a full episode.

  • cassandra

    nother, that is SO true.

    Doesn’t the whole gang appear beside themselves with joy for the fact that this boy-scout doesn’t seem to want to shred the entire constitution but “just turn the clocks back to the fifties”?

    Why do I keep associating Robert’s moon face and his “nuclear family” with “Duck! and Cover!”?

    Is this what America is longing for now – a time warp back to 1952?

    Is this how low we have come?

  • plaintext

    Last night’s speech by George II had some rather chilling phraseology. Did I hear this right? “There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.” This seems not so far from “The South will rise again.” And indeed he was inclusive of Biloxi and Gulfport. How about this one, “The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.” Reconstruction? Why couldn’t have said rebuilding? Is there an agenda here of nice white neighborhoods with church bells ringing and children singing? Bring on the Carpetbaggers!

  • scottbenbow

    Paul Kivel, author of “Uprooting Racism: How white people can work for racial justice,” would be an excellent guest to discuss these topics.

  • fsheth

    My concern about Katrina is that the discussion of its “racial” elements–on TV or mainstream newspapers–has been from the get-go predisposed to constitute the images of New Orleanians in terms that are palatable to a middle-class and upper-class liberal population (white and black and all others). We can become outraged over the fiasco that was precipated by FEMA and an indifferent presidential administration, and never once point to “ourselves,” as the culprits–for having happily voted for “liberal” presidents over the last 20 years who promised–promised–to eradicate our public infrastructure, through “welfare reform,” NAFTA, indifference to national health insurance, deregulation of the savings and loan industry, racial profiling for bank loans, “immigration reform,” and through the deliberate and far-reaching eradication of civil liberties through the the 3 strikes law, war on drugs, war on Iraq and the war on “Muslims”/brown people generally, the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo Bay, and the list goes on.

    So, we see poor African-Americans on TV; presumably they and other brown people–immigrants, migrant labor, “foreign workers,” (as the NYTimes calls them) were the victims of a number of these policies proposed, promoted, and approved by our liberal representatives lackeys. But at least now, we can feel allied with them over the failure of the Bush Administration–and not because we worked *so* hard to vote for presidents who protected our class interests at the expense of the poor. Marcellus is right: they *are* disposable–and *we* liberal rich and middle-class–black, brown, and white–people think so too. After all, we helped to vote for candidates who promised to ditch minorities, the under- and working- class, and immigrants, and fight *more efficient* wars (??!!) while the kids of these populations have to go get killed in Iraq or risk being berated by social workers when asking for aid from a state whose economy is in ruins, and which was never interested in providing decent jobs for poor populations.

    It’s a great opportunity for us to be *outraged*, vilify the Bush Administration, and return to business as usual for the neo-liberal regime. Kerry could probably win if he ran for the 2008 elections–if Hillary doesn’t give him a good run for his (our) money.

  • keepmoving

    Amazing!! I am always falbergasted by the predjudice constantly spouted in some of these responses and on this show in the guise of liberal acceptance and concern. If this is another Bush bashing show, save yourself the trouble of airing it! By focusing all of the attention on him, the real culprits get away scott free!! (By the way, I’m registered independent, because Republicans and Democrats do not offer anything that would help America. They are only interested in what will help themselves. I ususally vote for the lesser of two evils. I would be embarassed to be represented by either party!)

    Number one, I work with low income people and they come in all race groups. There are poor white and poor asian and poor black and (dare I say it) poor military (I work near an army base and with the soldiers and their families), you name it, its there. And guess what, I myself am considered low income and qualify for food stamps, so save your breath telling me I don’t understand their situation. Blaming President Bush for their situation seems odd. They were there before he took office. In fact, they were there when Clinton was in office and he is the one who started welfare reform. (Not sorry at all to point out the times when the liberal Emperor has no clothes on!) As far as the Katrina fiasco, I seem to remember hearing something on Open Source (It was the segment on what we could learn from Katrina, I believe) that made it clear that the Mayor of New Orleans didn’t follow an evacuation plan, the governor of LA didn’t ask FEMA for help right away, and Mississippi got help right away because they asked for it! Yet every time these things were pointed out they were ignored and the guest yelled “Bush lover” and “racists”. You really want to get to the heart of it, then AIR ALL OF THE FACTS!!!! I believe you and your guest might do this to escape any responsibility of your own. Stop buying into this distraction and focus on where change can be made.

    Number two: If you don’t like what is going on, start focusing your attention on the Congressman or the Senator who represents you. Who writes the bills? Congress and Senate. Who passes them into law? Same group. Who can veto? President. Who can override a veto? Look at that we are back at the congress and senate again. Three out of four are . . .? That is where change needs to come. I think the “Bash the President” scenario was started by Congressmen and Senators long ago to hide the fact that they do not do their job.

    Number three: The show on rebuilding New Orleans made a really subtle point. When the guests discussed what a new New Orleans would look like, one of the guest made it clear that there could be a New Orleans with all classes represented. Does that mean there has to be a ghetto? If so, there is no point in trying to change the poverty situation. Apparently, it is necessary.

  • Raymond

    nother — did you not notice Congressman John Lewis, an old black man, speaking with Senator Ted Kennedy, an old white man, both focused squarely, passionately, on civil rights: The Past.

    I think you missed the more interesting story: Mr. Peter Kirsanow, a young black man, speaking with Judge John Roberts, a young white man, both focused completely on the law.

    You see, the old men see the glories in the battles of the past: the great battles for civil rights. The young men see the promise of the future: true racial equality. I am not saying that such equality even nearly exists, but these men see that such equality is possible. Mr. Kirsanow sees this possibility in the statistics of Supreme Court decisions. Judge Roberts sees this possibility in the need to no longer “get it” as Senator Kennedy stated at the end of questioning Judge Roberts.

    cassandra — you must denigrate a decent man, a boy scout you say, to make your point? There is something wrong with being decent?

    plaintext — the Civil War? Carpt baggers? Uh, have you noticed the race and gender of President Bush’s cabinet?

    Chris, I am afraid that keepmoving has you pegged: you have a long way to go to bring a fresh view to this old topic.

  • plaintext

    Raymond: I’m merely pointing out an apparent sub-text present in Bush’s own words. This was not his cabinet speaking. By his own self-congratulatory admission, most of the speech he made was extemporaneous.

    But I’ll take the bait. Bush’s cabinet is presumably beholden to his ideology.

    Placing Karl Rove, who just so happens to be under a cloud of criminal prosecution, in the post overseeing the “reconstruction” of the South post Katrina is no sub-text but a clear message. Let’s suppose Rove succeds and the south “rises again.” What is the liklihood that he’ll see a criminal prosecution. If he fails, then what do you expect of a criminal?

    We hardly need to go any farther, but no doubt Halliburton will be getting the “reconstruction” contract. How soon will it be before we hear a proposals for an antibellum version of the Twin, er Halliburton, Towers in downtown NO. Heck, they’ve done such a great job reconstructing Afganistan and Iraq. What competitor would even attempt to bid against the Vice President of the US?

    What’s this got to do with race & class? Well, let’s see how much ethnic diversity we have here: Bush (white), Cheney (white), Rove (white). To their credit they have (so far) resisted trotting out Condi as the token black. Too bad they burned Powell so badly.

    keepmoving: Who can disagree with the dictum that Poverty knows no race? If you visit China, you will see much poverty and it will have a predominantly Asian face. If you visit the America, you will see much poverty. What will the faces of our poor tell us about our country?

  • keepmoving

    Plaintext: The face of American Poverty is the face of America, mixed. We were founded by a large number of ethnic groups, so poverty will take that look, just like higher class takes on the same face. (I am assuming here that in China, the Upper class, yes there is one, has an Asian face). My point is, poverty in the ethnic minority is not Bush’s fault. Therefore, bashing him does not address the real issue, i.e. Congress does not do it’s job, neither does the local governments. How can we help change the situation? My suggestion: start focusing on those who can make immediate, down home changes!! I don’t want a President tellling us what to do in our little community. I would love to see those who live there take a stand. Low income people, for the most part, don’t want a hand out. They want to show what they can do. How do we help them do that? That is the real issue when looking at race and class.

  • Raymond

    Ok, plaintext, so your point is that Carl Rove has been appointed to oversee the “reconstruction” to either bail out Rove from prosecution or cover’s Bush’s ass. And Bush just wants to direct more dollars to his good old boy network Halliburton. Oh, and since Bush, Cheney and Rove are white, they are racist.

    Did I get that about right?

    Well, thanks for “taking the bait,” but I think you may have missed the point: You find what you are looking for. And you seem to be looking for that same, tired tale: old white guys look out only for each other and money.

    Far more interesting to me was President Bush’s focus on entrepreneurship as the solution for the poorer parts of New Orleans. Now that represents ideaology for which the merits can be debated. What is striking is that Bush did not mention education, for example.

    So, in order to rethink race and class, the conversation needs to recognize that progress has been made, that some battles have been won. Therefore the assumptions, arguments and approaches of the past may no longer apply.

    Put another way, if it is not possible to move beyond the approaches used to win past battles (and Congressman Lewis and Sentor Kennedy seem to think it is not), then the hope for a future of true racial equality seems, to me at least, a futile hope.

  • nother

    “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” W. E. B. Du Bois

    To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” W.E.B. DuBois

    “It is, then, the strife of all honorable men of the twentieth century to see that in the future competition of races the survival of the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true; that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fine and noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and impudence and cruelty.

    W. E. B. Du Bois

    Some day the Awakening will come, when the pent-up vigor of ten million souls shall sweep irresistibly toward the Goal, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where all that makes life worth living–Liberty, Justice, and Right–is marked “For White People Only.”

    W. E. B. DuBois

    “It is the growing custom to narrow control, concentrate power, disregard and disfranchise the public; and assuming that certain powers by divine right

    of money-raising or by sheer assumption, have the power to do as they think best without consulting the wisdom of mankind.” W. E. B. Du Bois

  • For all these comments, I don’t feel that anyone has tapped futher into the vein that Marcellus Andrews has exposed. There is a lot jabbing here – at Presidents, at Congress, at each other. It seems to me that Katrina has aroused the sleeping giant of compassionate consciousness. The giant is not fully awake. It is in that semi-conscious state of almost dreaming. Being almost aware of something but not able to lift its head out of the netherworld.

    For all the finger pointing, I don’t see any action plans. Is there a meaningful action plan that we can engage that can jolt the giant into full consciousness? Throughout human history has there ever been a time of large-scale justice and equity? If not, we have no models at which to look back. We must reach for something hitherto unknown. In the human psyche, there is no greater risk. This could be why we have these moments of awareness and then quickly recede back to slumber.

    MLK Jr. offered us a dream. Many people are afraid of dreams. Some simply don’t believe in them. The rest of us aren’t sure you can actualize a dream. Dreams are by their vey nature elusive.

    I would like to hear a conversation that draws out a vision. A vision of what a just and equitable society looks like and how it functions. With very little from history to draw upon, perhaps we must start with the present and move forward. What the powerful visuals of Katrina might provide is a the beginning point of Acceptive Empowerment (a phrase I borrow from a guide of mine). We must accept the the reality of what is. We can’t change something if we don’t own what it is in the first place. Then we can envision what we desire. Then we can start building pathways from the current to the future.

    How do we structure a system that demands justice? We have a huge inequality in the distribution of resources. How do we redistribute? Its nearly impossible to get people to give up what they have. How do we convince them? Or must we force them? Can it be done without creating such anger and resentment that we further the divides? We are talking about implanting a new vision/ethic/spirit into the minds/hearts/souls of millions. Does anybody know what that takes?

    And are there enough suffering people who are willing to stand up and support a leader who offers this?

    I am poor. I know what it is to be poor, but not necessarily destitute. I would love to see a seed change in the way our culture functions. I know/see/feel so much that is awry. Still, I hear the language of fighting for justice and equality and I get only a vague sense of what they mean. I hear about enemies. If we fight for justice and equality won’t we have to convert any ‘enemies’ to be our allies? Perhaps fighting and enemies are the wrong paradigm. The old paradigm. Can we create something new? Can I hear words that generate a tangible vision? That give me a sense that we have some place to start and details to strive for?

    I long for that kind of leadership. Or even to be part of that kind of leadership. I long for a prolonged public discussion of what could be. Once we have a concrete ‘could’ we might actually generate the will…

  • Gee let’s have another one-sided conversation on race. Is this becoming the trademark of Radio Open Source? How open is it? Given the Alan Wolfe show which in my opinion was the lowest of the low grade editions to pass itself off as R/O/S, I’m hoping for some balance here. (Overall I think R/O/S is a good program, don’t get me wrong) However, when Professor Loury says that the President’s ideas (funneled from Heritage and elsewhere) are hare-brained then it’s time to say “Houston we have a problem.” Where’s Tom Sowell? Where are the Thernstroms. Give Reverand Rivers a call.

    Yup let’s have a real talk on race in America.

    If Marcellus Andrews with empty cant is going to set the tone then leave me out. On the other hand comments above such as from Raymond give me hope:

    “So, in order to rethink race and class, the conversation needs to recognize that progress has been made, that some battles have been won. Therefore the assumptions, arguments and approaches of the past may no longer apply.”

    Good thinking I say. And while we’re at it I really do want to hear an answer to the question: If we rebuiid NOLA should we rebuild the ghetto?

  • Here’s what I got off the top of my head about 30 minutes after accepting the gracious invitation to be on “Open Source”. I expect to clean it up and move it forward in the conversation.

    —Leon

    Rethinking race and poverty is rethinking two problems.

    One is the disproportionate burden of poverty borne by blacks and Hispanics.

    The other is our society’s inability to identify poverty, or even working class status, with whites. This inability is rooted in the false, socially constructed concept of black-white identity itself.

    The traditional “Great Society” solutions to the first problem have been discredited politically, philosophically and economically, to an extent, in critiques from the left as well as the right. Yet there remains a strong emotional investment in them, especially within African-America.

    The issue of the the second problem has been suppressed in our national political discussion since shortly after the Depression. In recent times, attempts to revive it are slapped down with the charge of inciting ‘class warfare’.

    In times of race ‘crisis’—like after riots or a disaster like Katrina—everyone, even conservatives of various stripes, is ready to throw sympathy, money and other resources at relieving the ‘unjust’ misery of poor black people. The exact nature and perpetrators of the injustice are mercifully unspecified. Why? because it is much easier to apply a very visible band-aid when the symptoms of the ‘black problem’ flare up than to be ruthless about finding it’s cause and curing it.

    Of course, the very visibility of the band aid that makes well-meaning, better off whites feel good about themselves breeds resentment among the less better off white majority, who are also increasingly socially and culturally insecure. With no acceptable way to voice their resentment, and blocked from identifying with their own class interest (problem 2) they are easily exploited politically by the interest of the wealthy in reducing taxes and other restraints and regulations on capital. As a result, the political will for government solutions, and the means for funding them, are further eroded, and the cycle stays vicious.

    Rethinking race and poverty must be about breaking the cycle in the paragraph above at the point most vulnerable to attack. I’m not sure where it is, but it’s somewhere along this perimeter.

    Ok

  • derek

    I keep thinking about the economics at the top of our government system. A friend of mine recently told me that 80% of our Senators are millionares when full assets are accounted for. 80%!! Shouldn’t this be a subject for a show? How did they all get their money? More importantly, how do they relate to class in this country if they are in such a privilaged tax bracket (in more ways than one). If 1% of the total population are millionares and yet 80% of the representative Senate are millionares, is that healthy? It makes me think of the comment that comedian Bill Maher said when scolded for Hollywood values being out of touch with reality. He said, ” Out of touch?! How many times are we going to here that argument, every time I hear that I just want to march my plasma tv down to the end of the street and throw it over the big black gate.” Ha ha, I think the same is true of the Senate. We might as well throw togas on all of them and tune in for the burning of Rome part 2.

  • Do us all a favor. When you package the show for an MP3 download please give it a new title. For an entire hour there was not one moment of fidelity to the thought of “rethinking” race. How about “recycling old nostrums about race in America.”

  • shpilk

    until there is a major change in the way people are elected to office, we have work within the system – to make irresponsible blanket ‘kill the Donkey’ statements gets all of us nowhere – I visualize Karl Rove smiling every time someone says that – it’s just what he wants

    80% of the pols are millionaires – and that includes blacks, women and Hispanics. It costs real money to get elected, even as mayor in a small city.

    Face it, that right there means the class war is ALREADY lost – if you are poor, you are at the mercy of the pampered SUV class. The best we can hope for is those who belong to this upper crust are sympathetic – few will understand the day to day struggle of even the middle and working class today

    better than ‘killing the Donkey’, why not get some of the moderate GOP voices to join in the progressive choir .. there are some, you know .. perhaps these moderates in the GOP won’t have across the board support for all the ideas that you or me might have, but take what you can, when you can and work with it

  • As you might gather I have little sympathies for the Democratic Party. a national party no more to quote Zell Miller. However I think the “kill the Donkey” message made by the professor are utterly foolish. Third parties get nowhere. We’re stuck with a two party system.

  • Excuse my poor English;

    Comment should have read

    As you might gather I have little sympathy for the Democratic Party. a national party no more to quote Zell Miller. However I think the “kill the Donkey� message made by the professor is utterly foolish. Third parties get nowhere. We’re stuck with a two party system.

  • hs

    What a marvelous show, for the first time those with leanings to the left get the point and are on the point. “The Nation hesitated” The clueless politicians in Louisiana created the situation and then the Nation hesitated. I defy for anyone to disagree with the notion that outside of New Orleans any City Mayor, any State Governor, any Federal Official, any Military Commander on a base had same thought for a day or two. Who is coming to us from New Orleans? Poor but nice black family, or am I going to get those who were looting, robbing and shooting for “fun”. Truly disadvantaged, or big mouth activists. Unemployed, unable to find work, or able bodied hard core welfare recipients. Of course no journalist, politician, or civil servant would dare to be “that frank”, in these days of political correctness it would be a death knell.

    Marcellus is magnificent in his thought. Yes the Civil Rights movement was absolutely essential. I arrived in this country from Communist Eastern Europe in 1961. Could not comprehend what was going on in the South, legally. That nonsense is gone. What is not gone is the tired old man like Congressman Lewis, Senator Kennedy who has become so shrill that no one pays attention to him any more and Charlatans like Jessie Jackson. Who can hear well though out arguments that Marcellus put forth over the clamour and din coming from the other three fools. The black (and poor white) constituency needs a new class of leaders who understand the roots and causes of poverty, like incredibly bad education system delivered by incredibly “under-educated” teachers. Believe me, I got half om my secondary education in Europe, half here. The US half was a joke. And, indeed it’s time to kill the donkey. Platitudes, fiery sermons and just plain political “bull” has been delivering massive black vote for the Democrats to do what? Keep the Democrats in the majority, it didn’t work, keep George Bush out of the White House, it hasn’t worked twice. The black community and the poor community need to put a real value on their votes, particularly in these close elections. Giving it to those who have always received it needs to stop. Time for these constituents to ask Lewis, Kennedy and Jackson, “cut the bullshit, what are you REALLY going to do for me?”

  • hs

    fconte is right, we don’t need a third party. Even though I advocate “kill the donkey” what I really advocate is “GET ANOTHER DONKEY” and that is coming from a lifelong Republican. The hard left is clueless (I spent my formative years in a Socialist Paradise), the hard Right is clueless, there is a need for government, laws and regulations. What we don’t need is a stupid government and that is what we get when either of the extremes has too much incluence on the Party in power. The disappearance of the “middle”, in both Parties, has been a terrible loss to this country (my country).

  • I was going to comment on the air but I was defeated by time constraints.

    Without getting into the race aspect for a moment (which is important) I want to address the Government’s current role in maintaining poverty.

    The US Government has a monetary policy, set by Alan Greenspan at the current time, that encourages a %% (by current measure) unemployment rate, which is called by many ‘full employment’. In other words, policy is to have 5% of the working-age population that is willing to work and looking for work out of work. This is called sound fiscal policy by many politicians.

    At the same time that the Fed holds to a policy encouraging 5% unemployment, the stated goal of some politicians is to get rid of Welfare as we know it, or just plain get rid of it. Many politicians who applaud the 5% unemployed goal deride people who are unemployed as ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’ or a variety of other epithets. So, to put it bluntly, these people support an ecomomic policy of keeping people out of work and blaming these people for not having jobs. As the primary job of a politician is supposed to be representing the interests of their constituents and respecting the people for whom they are supposed to work, this seems to me like these politicians are not working in the interests of their people.

    I am not an economist, so I do not know if the 5% unemployment rate is the optimal one. I know many economists say it is and I am willing to concede the point for the sake of argument. If this is the case, since Government is deciding that these people should not be working, Government should do something to keep these people from malnutrition, homelessness, poverty and ignominious death.

    For those who claim that Welfare is the font that creates a dependant underclass, perhaps they don’t pay attention to how it does so, because I won’t argue that it does. As a rule of thumb, to get off of Welfare you have to work. Under the current system, every dollar you earn means you receive a dollar less in Welfare benefits. Seems simple enough, yes? The problem is, all dollars are not created equal. A dollar earned working is subject to taxes – Social Security, Medicare, for most people Federal, in many places State, in some cases even Local. The Welfare dollar is provided without any of those taxes being deducted. So, someone trying to leave Welfare who is earning a low wage is very effectively monetarily penalized by working. Making people pay for the right to work hasn’t been a good means of encouraging workers in the past and I doubt that this has changed in modern times.

    This system, by the way, is also supported by most of the same people who believe in the 5% unemployment rate and less Welfare monies handed out.

    These same people also oppose increases in the minimum wage, saying it’s bad for companies. Maybe some companies haven’t yet figured it out, but if you don’t pay your workers well they can’t afford to be your customers. More to the point, they’ll leave as soon as they have the chance. Tell me what’s worse for a company: paying a living wage and treating your employees well, or having fewer customers along with employees willing to leave the moment they get a better offer? Ask Costco and Trader Joe’s. Ask Ben and Jerry’s. Ask Malden Mills. Then go ask WalMart.

    A sane economic policy, one that is paying attention to itself, would include measures to ease people off of Welfare instead of sharply cutting them off. It would provide assistance without the intense stigma and shame (and hoops) for needing help, allowing a little more dignity for these people and not stepping on their spines. It would encourage a living wage. It could even encourage a solid education, the one metric most everybody agrees is a solid measure of increasing earnings.

    Instead we have a system that promotes corporate bottom lines at the expense of low-wage workers. Tell me again why a CEO needs another $10,000,000 a year but a burger flipper earning $6 an hour, struggling to make ends meet, shouldn’t ask for a $1 an hour raise? I must have missed that in economics class.

  • emma_li

    I agreed with Marcellus’s comment “kill the donkey”. While we’re at it we need to kill the elephant too. Our current system is not working! We need to move on, this is the Age of Aquarius after all, and our two party, rich, mostly white male system is totally outdated. Also talked about in the program was the rage that so many black men and women are feeling right now regarding the aftermath of Katrina. Every human on this earth is separated by 0.01% difference in DNA, or biological structure. We’re all the same! Human! I am a poor white woman, and also feel enraged. I think in part because of all of the things that I have not done to improve the situation. Isn’t that why so many of us feel so horrible right now? Because we talk and talk, and don’t DO enough?

    I enjoyed hearing these problems discussed by economists, as this seems to be the one language which everyone speaks, the languge of money. Minimum wage is a joke, George Bush’s economic plan is a joke. Choosing between democrat or republican is a joke, none of it is funny. Keep up the good work at opensource, last night’s program was the first I had ever heard.

  • Richard

    Based on my experience I think we need to frame the issue of our Humanity, our common need for sustenance and nurture. we need to learn to live together on this fragile earth our island home, and every time we frame the issue in terms of race or class we affirm discrimination.

    I we frame it in terms of our humanity, warts clay feet and all, we would be better off. Forty years ago this past summer I came home from working in Georgia with SCLC. I was clobbered by the Klan on the court house steps, arrested on a capital charge for inciting the incident, and had to replace the transmission of my car on the side of the highway on the way home because the mechanic who serviced my car drained the oil from it.

    I am as appalled by the recent passage of Georgia House Bill 244, as I was when I view the events of March 7, 1965, two months before I would be able to vote—that led me to volunteer.

    When I finally got home to San Diego, I was taken to meet with a group of business men who were going to buy and integrate an apartment building. The proposal was to call it the Bi-Ray. I saw that as focusing on divisions even though the purpose was to bring them together. I suggested Multi-Ray, Poly-Ray, better yet No-Ray—except Hope. No luck.

    Differences are what we all have in common and respect for them all can bind us together.

  • upaul49

    dear chris and co.:

    i would like to hear a continuation of monday’s show (9/19).

    it was very important and too short to be left at 1 i hour show.

    please have the 2 noted guests back as well as the woman from

    amherst, ma. (whose name escapes me) to further discuss this

    long overdue discussion on race today in america, particularly

    with the current neo-cons in office.

    sincerely, paul goodwin

  • Race and class are highly intertwined with each other. The dominant culture encourages to place the emphasis on class – which we are told is individual. It is difficult for us to think of social class as a collective issue, after all, it is up to us and anyone can “make it to the top.”

    When forced to confront systemic inequalities, it is common to turn to the individual. We hide race behind class, and class is individual. Therefore we hear things like “They are responsible for their bad choices, or lack of responsibility.” Of course we are not little robots running on programs, but this overlooks that the range of options are part of what is different in systems of inequality. We do not all have the same “options” to “choose” from.

    If we look at many of those who did not evacuate from Hurricane Katrina through the lens of “bad choices.” They has no transportation, they had no money, they had no where to go and no way to survive once they got there. The “choice” these people had was between crowing together with 20 plus thousand other folks with no food or water, and risking staying home. For a variety of reasons, many stayed home.

    I am watching closely what is happening with the Texas evacuations in the face of Hurricane Rita. They are going out of their way to evacuate those without transportation. However, I watched the Galveston City Council issue evacuation instructions and there was not one word about where exactly people were being moved to. They were being moved inland, but where are they supposed to stay and what are they supposed to eat for the next five or six days? Are there provisioned shelters being prepared for them? If so, there is no word of it. For those who were evacuated from New Orleans to Texas, and are now being evacuated again, they are going to alternative (provisioned) shelters.

    So If you need to be evacuated, you need to have the resources to shelter and feed yourself and your family for the duration. If not, I guess you just find a park bench and hope for the charity of strangers.

  • WhiteBeetle

    I have caught bits and pieces of several of the shows in the series – they’ve kept me in my car long after it was in the driveway. (Of course I’m an obedient American – I turned off my engine so as not to waste gas!) As a suggestion, I would love to hear a program that is a response from the artistic community. We know from history that the arts/artists can not only be leaders but often provide foreshadowing/forewarning of things to come. The arts a wonderful place to see responses to our world – both positive and negative, as well as find ideas and inspirations and hope. (Think Harlem Renaissance.) And of course, the arts can provide very tangible access to history – something many of us–by choice, accident or conspiracy–do not have a very good handle on! (Think Harlem Renaissance.)

    I’m just a white, liberal, non-profit administrative type who has been fortunate enough to bare witness to the craft of some very talented “artists of color”, mainly in theatre here in the Northwest where I live. I am sure there are many artists from around the country that Open Source could call on to bring that unique perspective to this series on race – a slightly different take than is provided by those from the legal, financial or political arenas.

    Again, I’m speaking from personal experience from one corner of the world about the impact on my life from some visionary artists. I’m sure there is a long list of possible guests to speak from the perspective of the African American artistic community, but here are some of my suggestions from people/organizations whom I’ve had the priviledge of working with and/or seeing their work:

    Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, currently with the Theatre Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Professor, director, actor, playwright. Among many accomplishments, she is also the founder of the fledging Conciliation Project, an organization whose mission is “To promote, through active and challenging dramatic work, open and honest dialogue about Racism in America in order to repair its damaging legacy.” (Sorry, a bit of a plug here. I must admit, in the spirit of open disclosure, I am on the Board of this organization.)

    Tim Bond, Associate Artistic Director at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR

    Jacqueline Moscou, Artistic Director of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center; Affiliate Artist with Intiman Theatre; both in Seattle, WA

    And some West Coast organizations you could contact:

    Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco, CA

    Nu Black Arts West, Seattle, WA

    Again, I’m sure there are plenty of talented artists representing different mediums from around the country… It would be great to hear their voices in this mix.

    Certainly the arts can be challenging, daring, intense, activist… But often it is a more acceptable and accessible medium to build and carry forward important dialogue… on race and class and other pressing issues of the day. Would love to hear it on Open Source.

  • edit

    WhiteBeetle,

    Robin Amer has been looking into this. Thanks for your artist suggestions. We’ll check them out and tell your friends, we’ll be looking for more names.