August 14, 2017

The economic factor in ethnic prejudice

Sam Smith

For a couple of decades, I’ve been worried about economics  not being considered  an important factor in dealing with ethnic prejudice. If people feel they’re being economically screwed, they look for someone to blame and when  the media, politicians, and academia fail to emphasize  the importance of economic factors, it leaves plenty of room for groups such as today’s white nationalists to step in.

We become so busy attacking the evil soul of these groups that we forget to expose basic cons such as the fact that it is the politicians they voted for – in this case Donald Trump – and not your average immigrant or black who is responsible for their troubles.

For example, in my 1997 book, the Great American Political Repair Manual, I looked at what had happened to hourly wages by ethnicity, education and gender. In fact 17 categories had lost ground between 1976 and 1993 with white men having less than a high school education at the bottom of the list: down 23%. They had most in common with black men with only a high school education (down 20%), black men with less than  a high school education (down 19%) and white men with a high school education (16%).

For a labor organizer, such figures would suggest a non-ethnic approach to dealing with unfairness: black and white men definitely had something in common. The system just doesn’t tell them.  And by the rules of today’s liberalism, such facts get ignored. After all, we have had hardly any significant economic legislation since the Great Society.

The problem remains. A recent report by the Economic  Policy Institute found that:

Since 1979, median hourly real wage growth has fallen far short of productivity growth—a measure of the potential for pay increases—for all groups of workers (not just those without a bachelor’s degree), regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. Over this same period, there have been clear differences in wage growth trends of men and women, and of people of color relative to whites. Median wages for white, black, and Hispanic men all fell, with Hispanic men suffering the greatest losses (-9.8 percent). On the other hand, median wages of all women increased, with white women’s wages growing the most (30.2 percent) and Hispanic women’s wages growing the least (8.6 percent). Most of the decline in men’s wages occurred between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s. While men’s and women’s wages grew during the economic boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, for men, these gains were either inadequate to make up for the losses during the previous decade or have since been eroded in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Back when labor unions were much stronger than they are today and newspapers actually had labor journalists, we would know more about such things and the existence of movements to deal them made it less likely that, say, white nationalist groups could get away with what they do today.

Instead liberals speak repeatedly of “white privilege” and treat lower class white males as scum.

This is not a new problem. The Post-Reconstruction South in no small part replaced real economic issues with false ethnic ones. And it has happened a number of times since.

The best way out is to have politicians, activists and media that recognize and organize around the common ground that Americans of all origins have, of which the goal of economic fairness plays an extremely important part. Be silent and let the con men like Trump take over and we shouldn’t be surprised that so many are willing to blame the weak of another color or background rather than those with the real power.