Sunday, April 14, 2013

Is This the Racialization of Class? Or the Class-ization of Race?

This weekend's White Privilege Conference in Seattle, Washington has presented a unique opportunity to peer behind the curtain erected by many "anti-oppression" activists around their ideology of choice.

I personally think of this ideology as new-age racism: essentially the belief that discriminating against specific racial groups (more specifically white people) is a mark of some form of "enlightenment."

The ideology falls flat on its face by attributing complex patterns of inequality and disparity to race, gender, and sexuality. It refuses to acknowledge any effect that the internal dysfunctions of any number of identifiable groups may have on such disparity and inequality. And its obsession with race can lead it into some very strange places. The following is an actual excerpt from a study discussed at the White Privilege Conference:
For the record, the paper is entitled "Can 'Baby Bonds' Eliminate the Wealth Gap in Putative Post-Racial America." Its authors are Derrick Hamilton and William Darity Jr. And whether out of intent or mere prosaic clumsiness, the authors seem to have raised a very pointed question about the motivations of so-called "anti-oppression" activists.

The paper speaks of the apparent impossibility of race-based wealth redistribution -- taking wealth out of the hands of a particular racial group (say, white people) and putting it into the hands of another racial group (everyone else). In light of this practical impossibility, the authors suggest that re-distributing wealth along the lines of the amount of wealth that an individual already has is the next-best thing.

It almost seems like an admission that the activists participating in the White Privilege Conference could literally not give a crap about impoverished white people, and only advocate for measures that they think could alleviate their poverty because alleviating all poverty is the only practical way to alleviate the poverty of poor non-whites.

This provokes three key questions:

First off, if it were possible to simply re-distribute wealth from whites to non-whites until there are no more poor non-whites remaining, haven't you at best left behind the existing poor whites and at worst created additional poor whites while further impoverishing those who were already poor?

Second, what would this have created other than simply another form of race-based privilege?

Third, does the second-best solution suggested by Hamilton and Darity racialize class? Or does it class-ize race?

Either way Derrick Hamilton and William Darity Jr have missed the forest for the trees.

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