Monday, October 12, 2015

The Mirage of Civil Rights

It is not uncommon for white people, especially Republicans, to ask what black people and other people of color are complaining about.  “They have all the civil rights of white people, and even had advantages vis a vis whites when affirmative action was a major component.  If they’re still living in less than desirable conditions or don’t have good jobs, it’s their fault.  They’re lazy.”

Talk about the inability to see past your own hand.  Talk about ignorance.  Any objective observer looking at the social/economic/political scene in the United States in 2015 would come to the conclusion that while there indeed are laws on the books that protect the civil rights of people with color, and many have made advances in the past 50 years because of those laws and the change in some people’s attitudes, the vast majority of people of color still suffer from daily discrimination in almost every sphere of their lives.

The fact is that civil rights, or equal opportunity, for people of color is a mirage.  Regardless what area of life one looks at … education, housing, health, employment … people of color, and especially blacks, continue to suffer from substantial discrimination and an almost total lack of meaningful equal opportunity.

In my post, “Our Failed Economic/Social/Political System,”  October 2, 2015, I discussed this lack of meaningful equal opportunity, the causes for its continuing presence, and the proper role of government in changing the status quo.  And so I will not enter into a detailed discussion here.

There is little one can do to stop de facto discrimination in the short run, because people’s attitudes are hard to change.  It is, however, the responsibility of government, civic, and religious leaders to speed up the process by raising the visibility of this issue by speaking the truth about equal opportunity and forcefully denouncing discrimination as unacceptable… not just once or twice, but on a regular basis.

But as I made clear in that post, the problem is not just discrimination “on the ground” by white people against people of color.  The problem is in large part institutionalized discrimination that is the result of unequal funding of education for people of color and a health care system that remains unequal despite the improvements of Obamacare.  

With regard to institutionalized government discrimination, I quote the closing of that post:

“If we are to reclaim government of the people, by the people, and for the people. then we must find a way to get big money if not totally then mostly out of politics.  Public financing of election is one obvious way.   There may be others, but that is not the topic for this post.

This will require an aroused electorate, because this will be the first test of the power of the people v the power of corporations.  (See my post, “How the Koch Brothers Hijacked the Middle Class Revolt and How To Take It Back.”)  Only if there is a popular movement so strong that members of Congress know that if they do not implement the will of the people they will be turned out of office does this have a chance of getting passed into law.”

People of color must join forces with poor whites and the diminished middle class to fight for this common cause … the return of government to the people by getting big money out of politics and the political process.  There is no more important immediate goal for those interested in creating a more just America.  Until that is achieved, little or no meaningful progress will be made on the various individual substantive goals.