In my recent blog piece, “Black.”, there was a number of very thoughtful or interesting comments to further discuss. This, from
I’m from Flint, Michigan, and as a disclaimer, I’m so white that the SPF on my sunscreen is measured in scientific notation, so keep that in mind. However, living in Flint affords me a unique perspective, because it’s a city that’s 57% Black and 40% white. So policies like redlining? I see them first hand, because they affect me and where I live. Policies like zip-code discrimination? Yep. See it first hand, because my zip-code is targeted. Situations like totally white Republicans railing against lead in pipes poisoning children and then voting down bills that could help fund the removal of lead from pipes and paint because they’re “small government” – which often means “sticking my head in the sand until the problem goes away conservative?” Yep. Seen that.
I don’t experience them first hand, but I do definitely get caught in the fallout from racist policies, and not just because a substantial number of my friends and former co-workers get caught in them being Black or African-American, but because living in a predominantly Black or African-American community means I am in the blast zone for systematic racism. While it indirectly affects everyone, there are times when it directly affects me.
The thing to understand about racism in America is that it isn’t just racism; it’s economic inequality, because the two go hand-in-hand, like war and famine. Americans have had class distinctions for a long time, but we routinely ignore them, because we operate under the (clearly delusional) idea that all people are created equally. And because we’ve ignored them for so long, they’ve been allowed to calcify.
Understanding America’s problems with race and economic inequality requires wrapping your head around something really close to India’s caste system; perhaps not as formalized, but certainly every bit as merciless. That’s how bad things are. And just like the Brahmins will do whatever it takes to hold onto power, so will the wealthy whites. And just like India’s caste system, the one in the United States is often justified via religion; in this case, Christianity. And just like India’s caste system, it’s a problem that can only be solved through large-scale government action and a total re-visitation to the idea of a “society” and how a society is supposed to function.
We experience these things differently, and it’s interesting to hear a (very!) white man evidence and experience the inequality we are talking about. We might call this, tongue-in-cheek, “enemy attestation”. These structures, these institutions, these oligarchies and family corporate empires of great power are what need to be scrutinised.
Anne Fenwick packed her comment full of content: