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"Why race relations got worse".

TWEET MEI just found this old article from a conservative publication about "why race relations got worse" in America.

It's an interesting read.

The Field Negro education series continues.

 "The United States has never been entirely sure what to do about race. Alone among the countries in the world, it has attempted to construct not just a state of different tribes, but a nation of them — white and black, Christian and Muslim, and many others, too. Its sense of nationalism has evolved unevenly, slowly incorporating an ever growing chunk of the people within its borders, and it has made steady progress.

Yet 2016 offers reasons for unique alarm. The progress of recent decades, both political and social, appears to have evaporated in the past few years. And the problems, as so often, are focused on the two oldest classes of our Poor. These two underclasses pre-date the United States as a political union. 

The black underclass, brought here in chains, toiled for centuries in the hopes of earning freedom — first physical, then political. They found themselves concentrated in the South — the home of King Cotton. The white underclass, many of whom descended from Scots-Irish peasants of the motherland, came here freely. They tended to concentrate in the rural parts of the eastern United States, especially along the Appalachian Mountains. The paths of these tribes have sometimes intersected. When recently freed slaves began to marry the white indentured servants of Virginia planters, their children took on a color that entitled them to all of the burdens of their darker-skinned parent. So they moved to eastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee, called themselves Cherokee Indians, and attempted to live in peace. The locals, unsure what to do with their new neighbors, derisively called them“Melungeons.” “

 A century later, as the industrial economies of the North created millions of new jobs, the white and black underclasses went hunting for opportunities. The black folks encountered a spate of indignities and a government housing policy that forced them into artificial urban ghettos. And the white establishment, confronted for the first time with people who looked like them but possessed none of their sensibilities, treated these seemingly foreign whites with scorn. As anthropologist John Hartigan Jr., commenting on the rapid industrialization of Detroit, has observed: It was not simply that the Appalachian migrants, as rural strangers “out of place” in the city, were upsetting to Midwestern, urban whites. Rather, these migrants disrupted a broad set of assumptions held by northern whites about how white people appeared, spoke, and behaved. . . . The disturbing aspect of hillbillies was their racialness. Ostensibly, they were of the same racial order (whites) as those who dominated economic, political, and social power in local and national arenas. But hillbillies shared many regional characteristics with the southern blacks arriving in Detroit. 

In the face of these pressures, the two groups took different approaches to politics. The white poor, unencumbered by legal discrimination, focused on a politics of class. From Jackson to Truman, they voted their pocketbook, taught their children to mistrust the rich man, and hated the elites who looked down on them. 

As Martin Luther King Jr. observed shortly before his death, they benefited psychologically from the caste system in the South. Black people, meanwhile, understandably voted the color of their skin, putting their trust in whoever promised to tear down the most legal barriers. Sometimes, as with Lyndon Baines Johnson, these interests aligned, delivering supermajorities in the process. But those moments were largely the product of chance. 

The civil-rights successes of the 1960s were supposed to change that. In 1978, the eminent sociologist William Julius Wilson argued confidently that class would soon displace race as the most important social variable in American life. As explicit legal barriers to minority advancement receded farther into the past, the fates of the working classes of different races would converge. By the mid 2000s, Wilson’s thesis looked pretty good: The black middle class was vibrant and growing as the average black wealth nearly doubled from 1995 to 2005. Race appeared to lose its salience as a political predictor: More and more blacks were voting Republican, reversing a decades-long trend, and in 2004 George W. Bush collected the highest share of the Latino (44 percent) vote of any Republican ever and a higher share of the Asian vote (43 percent) than he did in 2000. Our politics grew increasingly ideological and less racial: 

Progressives and the beneficiaries of a generous social-welfare state generally supported the Democratic party, while more prosperous voters were more likely to support Republicans. Stable majorities expressed satisfaction with the state of Race Relations. It wasn’t quite a post-racial politics, but it was certainly headed in that direction. But in the midst of the financial crisis of 2007, something happened. Both the white poor and the black poor began to struggle mightily, though for different reasons. And our politics changed dramatically in response.

It’s ironic that the election of the first black president marked the end of our brief flirtation with a post-racial politics. By 2011, William Julius Wilson had published a slight revision of his earlier thesis, noting the continued importance of race. The black wealth of the 1990s, it turned out, was built on the mirage of house values. Inner-city murder rates, which had fallen for decades, began to tick upward in 2015. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent memory, a white supremacist murdered nine black people in a South Carolina church. And the ever-present antagonism between the police and black Americans — especially poor blacks whose neighborhoods are the most heavily policed — erupted into nationwide protests. 

Meanwhile, the white working class descended into an intense cultural malaise. Prescription-opioid abuse skyrocketed, and deaths from heroin overdoses clogged the obituaries of local papers. In the small, heavily white Ohio county where I grew up, overdoses overtook nature as the leading cause of death. A drug that for so long was associated with inner-city ghettos became the cultural inheritance of the southern and Appalachian white: White youths died from heroin significantly more often than their peers of other ethnicities. Incarceration and divorce rates increased steadily. 

Perhaps most strikingly, while the white working class continued to earn more than the working poor of other races, only 24 percent of white voters believed that the next generation would be “better off.” No other ethnic group expressed such alarming pessimism about its economic future. And even as each group struggled in its own way, common forces also influenced them. Rising automation in blue-collar industries deprived both groups of high-paying, low-skill jobs. Neighborhoods grew increasingly segregated — both by income and by race — ensuring that poor whites lived among poor whites while poor blacks lived among poor blacks. As a friend recently told me about San Francisco, Bull Connor himself couldn’t have designed a city with fewer black residents. 

Predictably, our politics began to match this new social reality. In 2012, Mitt Romney collected only 27 percent of the Latino vote. Asian Americans, a solid Republican constituency even in the days of Bob Dole, went for Obama by a three-to-one margin — a shocking demographic turn of events over two decades. Meanwhile, the black Republican became an endangered species.

Republican failures to attract black voters fly in the face of Republican history. This was the party of Lincoln and Douglass. Eisenhower integrated the school in Little Rock at a time when the Dixiecrats were the defenders of the racial caste system. Republicans, rightfully proud of this history, constructed a narrative to explain their modern failures: Black people had permanently changed, become addicted to the free stuff of the 1960s social-welfare state; the Democratic party was little more than a new plantation, offering goodies in exchange for permanent dependence. There was no allowance for the obvious: that the black vote drifted away from Republicans en masse only after Goldwater became the last major presidential candidate to oppose the 1960s civil-rights agenda. 

Besides, Republicans told themselves, the party didn’t actually need the black vote anyway. It would win where others had lost, by re-engaging the “missing white voter,” a phantom whose absence allegedly cost Romney the 2012 election. By the time Republicans officially nominated Donald Trump as their presidential candidate, he polled even lower among Latinos than Romney had. Asian Americans, arguably the most financially successful minority group in the United States, have abandoned the party in droves. Current polls suggest that only a statistically shocking 1 percent of black Americans will vote to “make America great again” this November. In nominating Trump, Republicans have come full circle: The party of Lincoln has become the party of the white man. And that man has become extremely cynical." [More]

Interesting.  Although honestly, I think the political angst that most working class whites ( trump voters) feel towards black folks is due more to good old fashion racism than economic anxiety, but that's just me.    

My question to the author would be this: When was race relations ever good in America?


 


This post first appeared on Field Negro, please read the originial post: here

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