Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Racism is Decreasing While Inequality is Increasing

The decrease in racism, and the increase of income inequality, are two of the most significant American social trends of the last quarter century. Yet historically, these two issues have been linked together, and have had sympathetic political constituencies. People who promote or believe in a society without racism are also generally interested in issues of economic justice.

This traditional marriage has been short-circuited by what is a comfortable political ideology for the very wealthy - one based around identity politics and multi-culturalism, but not a significant redistribution of economic power. This also dovetails nicely with the desire to expand into new markets - if a society is xenophobic there are tendencies against this, and that hurts business. In this type of constructed political movement, the meritocracy of various minority groups are given a share of the pie. For intellectuals this can mean professorships, for business minded people it can be a 'seat at the table' in corporate America.

Identity politics has reached its endpoint with the election of Obama. If working class conditions do not substantially improve, in due time, there could be sharper attention placed on the tremendous growth in economic inequality. This, as racism and the acceptance of discrimination wanes. Alternatively, societies with vast degrees of inequality are often hotbeds for racism, xenophobia, and the like - since something has to 'explain' the inequality.

The divergence in the political conditions of these two historic social causes is not tenable going into the future.


1 Emmanuel Saenz's Spreadsheet on U.S. Income Inequality. Data is From Table A3.
2 Gallup : Most Americans Approve of Interracial Marriages

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