Alex Blaze

America is still paying for the sin of slavery

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 17, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags:

I was in and out last week, and this week will be the same. I did want to comment briefly on the current health care "debate." It's depressing that some people think other people (or even themselves) going to the doctor will destroy the country. All garymccoy.jpgthis foreign usurper stuff is undoubtedly related to the current protesters against health care, and I seriously doubt that they'd be up in arms if Bush were pushing for the same sort of moderate health care reforms Obama's pushing for.

But the title refers to more than Obama's skin color. No, the reason Truman wasn't able to get universal health care was because, fundamentally, poor and working class conservatives, especially Southerners, oppose social services because they think undeserving black people will get them. Slavery, especially post-Enlightenment, was a system that required a fundamental disavowal of the value of certain humans (and autonomy, democracy, and humanity themselves) in order to work. Several centuries of it caused the basic ways we see the world to change. It created a breed of people who identify more with the interests of rich people than other poor people. It's Pavlovian in that most of these folks don't even know enough to know why they're protesting against health care, but they know the people they trust to tell them what's right are saying this will kill grandma and destroy America, so they pull out their guns and head down to a town hall. It's not about different reasoning or values or experiences.

As Nathan Glazer put it:

"Racial fragmentation and the disproportionate representation of ethnic minorities among the poor played a major role in limiting redistribution.... Our bottom line is that Americans redistribute less than Europeans for three reasons: because the majority of Americans believe that redistribution favors racial minorities, because Americans believe that they live in an open and fair society, and that if someone is poor it is his or her own fault, and because the political system is geared toward preventing redistribution. In fact the political system is likely to be endogenous to these basic American beliefs."(p. 61) "Endogenous" is economics-ese for saying we have the political system we do because we prefer the results it gives, such as limiting redistribution to the blacks.

Thus the racial factor as well as a wider net of social beliefs play a key role in why Americans don't care about income inequality, and why, not caring, they have no great interest in expanding the welfare state. Does this conclusion hold up?

I believe in large measure that it does. It parallels the conclusions of political scientists and sociologists who have been studying this question for 20 years or more, and indeed it parallels with only small differences the reasons I gave 15 years ago for why the American wlfare state is different. I would modify their conclusion in two key respects. I believe the specific racial factor that emerges so sharply in their regressions has to be embedded in a larger structure of opinion shaped by the history of American diversity, in religion, in ethnicity, and in race, and it is this larger structure that is the key factor in shaping the American welfare state. It has shaped it in such a distinctive pattern that, as I argued more than 15 years ago, it is not to be seen as laggard, or backward,
but rather different.

The entire article is worth the read, and it's something to keep in mind when the tea-baggers start to talk about Obama's birth certificate.

It's interesting that they're not even making the most basic argument against social welfare programs that we've heard 1000 times before: that X program will increase taxes on the wealthy and they'll all either stop working or leave the country. Yes, a few of them are saying that, and "going Galt" was a phase that lasted about a week a half a year ago, but what they're really saying when they oppose health care reform is that it's just not something that they can support because it's not America, it's not their people asking for it, it's just not right. And so they flail around and buy whatever conspiracy theory presents itself, since one of the wrong people is proposing the idea and, therefore, it must be terrible.

I have to say, this is the probably the most concrete and destructive ways I've seen "racism hurts everyone" play out. I know this explanation isn't 100% of what's going on, but I can't help but look at people protesting against health care and think that we're suffering from some sort of deep cultural sickness. It's pretty rare for a person to act against his or her own self-preservation.


Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


My opposition stems not from any of the logical fallacy straw man tactics presented above about race. Moreover, attempting to paint all opposition as "racist" only serves to undermine the pro-government health care side's push for government involvement into the medical arena.

In my opinion President Obama is merely the new puppet executing the domestic agenda whereas the last puppet (George W. Bush & Co.) executed the foreign agenda via the endless expansion of empire and torture.

My opposition to a "public" option stems from the fact that when you "give" "free" services to others you first must take the monies needed for payment (taxes) from ours and other middle class families.

If you are seriously concerned about the rising costs of health care, perhaps you might actually look at the root of the problem, ergo the 1973 Health Management Organization Act which eradicated smaller insurance companies and led to the creation (with the help of government) to an oligopoly of giant insurance companies, i.e. Anthem, Wellpoint, et al.

Please consider the fact that what you support is not what your good intentions lead you to believe will be a equalization and open access to health care.

What you support in reality (H.R. 3200) is a further fascist merging (as defined by Mussolini) of corporations and government.

If you think the afore is hyperbole, you may wish to dig through H.R. 3200 to page 49.

Section 151(A)(2) extends Tort Immunity as first given in the ERISA Act of 1974 to ALL insurance companies in the event they deny a policy holder coverage that results in injury or death...unless of course you are a member of Congress.

But by all means keep buying into the false left/right paradigm of D's v. R's, it serves the purpose of the plutocratic oligarchs quite nicely. While they sit with private triple-A rated policies paid for by 'We the People" veterans already [SIC]beneficiaries of government health care continue to get maimed and die at the hands of government doctors.

Your intentions are indeed noble, however the managers you have entrusted to execute the health care utopia are only in it for themselves regardless of party label.

I grow ever more appalled at the psyche of this country every day.

I have yet to figure out why they would call themselves "first world", when I've started to notice that spiritually and humanely, they are no better than the backwater nations mired in poverty.

I grow concerned at the misleading image Americans present to the world, when they can turn out in such numbers as spiteful and violent. How can they aim to teach the Middle East about evolved societies?

Alex,
While I agree that some opposition to Obama's plan is unconsciously racial, I think it is mostly economic pride, as in, "I worked for what I have [private coverage] and I'll be damned if I let the government screw it up for me." I think they fear (and justifiably)having to stand in long lines for health care, having fewer choices of providers, and receiving inferior treatments. I think the Obama team ought to assure those who are already covered that they will have the option of retaining their current plans with no adjustments.