To understand how racism is killing poor whites, you have to understand how racism operates in America. Racism is a system of power that structures opportunity and assigns value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (what we call “race”). Racism is deeply embedded in our country’s core narrative. There are clear echoes of it in the US Constitution, in our national anthem, and even in the public oratory of the so-called Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.
Narrative shapes policy and policy shapes opportunity. Our national debate repeatedly distinguishes those who deserve health, social, and economic benefits from those who don’t and assigns the undeserving black and brown faces. The welfare queen. Absentee fathers. Anchor babies. This revolving cast of, well, deplorables, is employed to erode popular support for common sense universal policies. This highly racialized narrative undergirds a profound “structural racism”- a set of exclusionary policies around housing, education, employment, and health- that operate synergistically to deprive many low income people of color opportunity and access to the American Dream.
The same narrative that gives rise to structural racism also serves as a powerful barrier to the adoption of common sense universal policies that other developed nations implemented generations ago such as universal health care, paid sick leave, universal child care, subsidized post-secondary education, housing support policies, and robust unemployment protections and retraining programs. In fact, this narrative undermines universal policies by attacking the very role of government itself.
- And so we come to another glorious pause…
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- America first. The Netherlands, second?
- Yeah, well…