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Krugman: Race is Why We Have a Weak Safety Net

3 min read

Paul Krugman has a column out this morning: Tulsa and the Many Sins of Racism, about Bunker Boy’s choice of Tulsa and Juneteenth for his restart rally — choices Krugman is certain were deliberate. Being a Nobel laureate in economics, Krugman looks at the question of race relations from a largely economic perspective. One of his observations in particular caught my eye:

And when the loss of economic opportunity led, as it usually does, to social dysfunction — to broken families and despair — all too many whites were ready to blame the victims. The problem, many asserted, lay in black culture — or, some hinted, in racial inferiority.

Such implicit racism wasn’t just talk; it fueled opposition to government programs, up to and including Obamacare, that might help African-Americans. If you wonder why the social safety net in the U.S. is so much weaker than those of other advanced countries, it comes down to just one word: race. [emphasis added]

The refusal to fund a broad-spectrum social service, such as — especially such as — realistic health care, cuts across all racial and ethnic lines. The only ones not harmed are the already wealthy. In other words, racism is so endemic and so powerful that many people are willing to deny themselves the benefits of government help just so they can deny them to African-Americans. 

We’re at a crisis point in the United States now. There is an awakening among people of all shades of skin to the special animus and the special dangers that haunt someone with a darker skin from the moment of their birth. I’m particularly heartened by the protests against police violence toward Blacks in small southern towns that have few or no Black residents. For now, this awakening is stronger than than the backlash — but the racists aren’t giving up. And they have a powerful ally in Bunker Boy, both because he is racist in his own right and because he sees adding fuel to the racist fires as a path to re-election.

Krugman’s observation is hardly new, though he makes the point well. We combat racism, and also Bunker Boy and the whole GOP, by making it clear how it hurts everyone, Whites as well as Blacks. This means that, right now, we have to divide in order to unite. We have to separate and isolate the racists, who are a minority in this country, though a loud, obnoxious, and vicious one. Regular people should be ashamed to side with them, even if by silence. Regular people can also be persuaded that silence in the face of racism also hurts them, not just in their souls but also in their bodies, which would benefit from the social safety net that the racists are denying them just because it will also help someone they hate.

It isn’t just animosity toward Blacks, of course. Hispanics, gays, non-fundamentalist Christians, women, Jews and Muslims, others, all are targets of this illogical prejudice. Which means that while Blacks right now are the most obvious and easily spotted targets, the same violence directed against them is in training for violence against the rest of us.

This needs to be part of the message in this election.

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