“American Inequality” in a time of crisis

It’s a sad “truism” of the U.S. past:

  • In the decades following the conclusion of the Civil War, as the South struggled to regain its economic footing and the expansion of industrial capitalism forever changed the way the American public related to work, the rise of new systems of racial segregation emerged to regulate the advancement of blacks in Southern society [source].
  • In the 1930s, amid the economic turmoil and uncertainty of the Great Depression, an estimated 1 million ethnic Mexicans were “repatriated” to Mexico. Rounded up into cattle cars, they left the U.S. with what they could carry, leaving behind their once vibrant dreams of prosperity for hard work. Shockingly, one in every four of those relocated were legal U.S. citizens, either by birth or naturalization [source].
  • A decade later, as the U.S. responded to the bombing of Pearl Harbor with its full participation in the Second World War, more than 110,000 ethnic Japanese were forcibly relocated to camps in remote spots throughout the nation. They were called many things, but they were “concentration camps,” where people found themselves imprisoned for nothing other than the “color of their skin.” A majority of those imprisoned were U.S. citizens; almost two-thirds were under the age of 18 years [source].

As the above examples—and the historical record—substantiate, in moments of profound crisis American society has used “race” to stabilize itself.  For centuries, whether during wars, economic downturns, or social upheaval, varied forms of “white supremacy” have represented a fallback position for the nation.

Of course, that is not to suggest, conversely, that eras of prosperity are times of racial equality.  A racism based on white supremacy has been the political and cultural default of U.S. society for most of its two centuries.  The process of reinvigoration taking place in times of crisis has also served to sustain the broader schema of racial advantage and disadvantage by creating new ways of sustaining inequality.

That is also not to say there aren’t exceptions.  Last November, when Americans chose Barack Obama to serve as President of the United States, many celebrated the “historic” election as evidence this history was, finally, “behind us.” “It’s the second Emancipation Proclamation,” said one scholar, in reference to the 1863 document in which President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves [source], while a CNN political analyst declared it “the passing of an old order” [source]. Speaking for many in her generation, a 50-year old woman proclaimed “It’s like Martin Luther King’s dream coming true” [source].  Even supporters of the opposition party expressed an optimistic tone.  Said one, “My sincere prayer is that we can finally all live together without the heavy baggage of the past weighing us down” [source].

Less than a year later, what do we have?  A groundswell of people in fear of losing their jobs.  Already, 9.7% of Americans are out of work (15.9% of black Americans; 12.5% of Latinos) [sources].  Two wars continue to be waged in the name of this country, with more and more men and women returning to the front lines, a sanctioned trauma we are choosing to ignore.  And a growing number of people now owe more on their home than it is worth on the open market.

And people showing up at Presidential rallies with guns, characterizing Obama as Hitler, labeling him everything from a fascist to a socialist—all for proposing to give health insurance the poorest of Americans.  Others questioning his legal birth in this country, even though mountains of evidence prove it beyond any measure of rational thought.

Americans move to their “comfort zone” in times of crisis.  We put on our sweats, make a big bowl of mac ‘n cheese, and sit in the big chair in the living room.  And then we’re afraid.  And then we’re angry.  And then…

Well, you get the picture.


4 thoughts on ““American Inequality” in a time of crisis

  1. Pingback: Posts about racism as of August 20, 2009 | Discrimination Law News

  2. Is Mr Obama a weakling ?? – A Sissy to be beaten up by the Republican Bullies – Perhaps not – Obama Analysis – Psychoanalysis of Politics

    Many people complain that Mr Obama seems very weak before his enemies, that he seems very detached from Reality, that he lacks certain strength of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Lyndon Baines Johnson … These two mentioned presidents were the main architects of Social Legislation in U. S. Twentieth Century History.

    They had many powerful enemies in their times ( Republicans and Rich Corporations ) but they showed Great Strength and Force of Character to succeed in Legislation.

    Perhaps the people that fear that Mr Obama is a Little Sissy to be beaten up by the Republican Bullies are wrong.

    To analyze the personality of Mr Obama, we have first to understand the he is half “Black” and half “White” … we should paint ourselves with these two colors before wearing Obama’s shoes.

    The condition of being the “Weird”, “Foreigner”, “Stranger” and “Other” in a Hawaian School and later in the U. S. Continent has to have an impact on Obama’s Soul. This has to produce a reserved and interior personality, more introverted than extroverted, in order to survive or to improve his standing in every situation.

    We can not expect Mr Obama to be a buoyant Teddy Roosevelt, or a Franklin Roosevlet from Money and Society Nobility …. Or a Big Texan like Lyndon Johnson. … Obama comes from the World of Underdogs.

    That requires “Survival by Shrewdness”, “Quiet endurance of harsh conditions”, etc …. be quiet and avoid useless revenge for small nuissances.

    So Obama is an occult and hidden personality, but “Filth that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, so Obama may have become stronger with all the Dirt and Filth of Society.

    Every new king, ruler or president has to be very prudent when he reaches the throne.

    It is reported that Caligula and Nero were welcomed as very Human, Civilized, Kind and Polite, during the first years of their Emperorships.

    Obama is not a Caligula or Nero, not even a Tiberius. Obama has little in common with Julius Caesar ( a scion of the Julian Nobility ) but Obama may have an ounce of Augustus ( Diplomacy, Politics ) a gram of Trajan ( Great Builder ) and a pound of Claudius ( Shrewdenss, Intellect, Understanding )

    “Felicitor Augusto, melior Traiano” was a ritual formula to greet the Roman Emperors when they arrived to a new city. “Be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan”…

    Be more happy and lucky that Augustus and build more good things for the Empire than Trajan.

    Mr Obama may have hidden strengths and reserves of Psychological Strength.

    He may be “Quiet “Waters” : in many countries there are rivers and lakes of incredible danger, because they may have hidden currents, whirls, spins, fast rotations that are not apparent in the surface.

    So the expression “Quiet Waters” may mean “Hidden Dangers”, and as applied to a person, it may mean that under a Quiet and Tranquil personality there are hidden currents of energy and strength to face enemies.

    That Mr Obama seems very “Republican” in Afghanistan and other policies, may be buying time to gain strength or to study a situation. ( Perhaps he is not a strong believer in some of his temporary policies )….

    Mr Obama is Professorial, Rational, Reasonable, Intelligent, Shrewd, Calculator, Cold, Historian, Bookish and Librarian Like, but he may have a hidden maelstrom of energy and strength.


    Vicente Duque

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