Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bring People Together By Providing Real Security and Real Opportunity for All

Bring People Together by Making the American Dream Real Again

We need to bring people together. The Democratic Party cannot be successful if promotes only causes that drive people apart. We have to build our platform around issues that matter to most people, and here are three of them:

  1. Health care
  2. Retirement security
  3. Real Opportunity for Young People

Each of these issues is rooted in a strong, moral argument. It is wrong for a rich society like ours to fail to provide our people with a decent and secure living. We can easily afford these things, but we have chosen to concentrate our wealth ever more narrowly in the top 1% of our people, and we must change that. We must recognize that as a people, we are “all in it together.” We prosper or fall together, and we can prosper most if we work together.

Our party must stand for the moral principle that our economy should provide a good life for all of our citizens, not just the wealthy few. Let us renew the American Dream.

Health Care 

The high cost of health insurance in the United States is ruining the American Dream for most of us. 

Health care in the United States is far too expensive, and we can no longer afford it. We pay far more than most other countries, and our system delivers mediocre outcomes. Health care emergencies are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy. Millions of people are without health insurance, and even those who still have insurance through their jobs are finding that it costs them more and more while it covers less and less.  Companies that offer health insurance are finding it more and more costly.

We must have a national system of health insurance that covers everyone. “Medicare for all” is one possibility, but it is not the only one. Several European countries have health care systems that rely on insurance provided by health insurance companies in a heavily regulated market. However, whatever solution we adopt must include non-market methods of controlling the cost of health care products and services. Without that, no program will be financially feasible in the long run.

Providing adequate health care for all of our people is a moral responsibility. If we fail to do that, we will drive more and more people into bankruptcy and misery.

Our party must stand for a financially sustainable national system of health insurance for everyone in order to make the American Dream real again.

Retirement Security

For too many of us, the American Dream is ruined by the reality of poverty in retirement. Everyone hopes to have a secure and comfortable retirement. Most of us work hard toward that end, but we find ourselves in a world that makes it more and more difficult to achieve. Our Social Security system is the bedrock of a comfortable retirement for our people. It must be preserved, and its financial problems must be resolved.  We cannot allow the financial interests of a few extremely wealthy people to rob the rest of us of the secure and comfortable retirement that we have worked for.

Providing a secure and comfortable retirement for every American is a matter of basic fairness. It is wrong for us to abandon people in their old age, and every young person should be able to work secure in the knowledge that his/her retirement income is guaranteed

Our party must stand for a comfortable and secure retirement for everyone in order to make the American Dream real for all of us.

Real Opportunity for Young People

We must make the American Dream real again for our young people. It would be wrong for us to do otherwise. 

Our economy depends on our having a steady supply of well trained workers, and our democracy depends on having an educated citizenry. We should not place the burden of paying for the education that is required entirely on the shoulders of the young. Today, we act as if the education of our young people only benefited them, but in fact, we all benefit from it.

We used to understand that. We used to pay for post-high school education for all of our people mainly through taxes. Tuition at our community colleges and state universities used to be almost free, but a few decades ago, we started to shift the burden to the young. We cut state support for higher education, and we required students to borrow money to pay for it. The burden on them has become heavier and heavier through the years, and now, young people graduating from school face crushing debts, which will take them many years to repay. The burden of debts makes them unable to invest in good homes and good education for their children.

This is wrong. We should be doing all we can to make sure that the American Dream is as real for today’s young people as it was in the past, and that means increasing funding for higher education, especially at the state level.

Our party must stand for real opportunity for young people. We must make the American Dream real for them again.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What is "White Privilege?" A White Man Continues to Learn

"White Privilege" is More that I Thought It Was

In a recent post on this blog, I explained what I understood white privilege to mean. I focused on the very practical side of white privilege, which is the ability of white people to avoid without effort the dangers, barriers and inconveniences of black life in America. I still think that what I said was true, but it did not tell the whole story.  As a result of helpful responses to my post and as a result of things that I have read over the last couple of days, I have come to see that white privilege is much more than I originally said. 

The Standard by Which Everything is Judged

White privilege is also the privilege of being the standard by which everything is judged and the center of the story of modern civilization. We are so used to being the standard and the center that we don’t even notice that we are. The standards of feminine beauty in our society provide an obvious example. They include long, straight or gently curling hair and fair skin or a golden suntan. The goddesses of movies and magazine covers fit this standard. They may be thin like Jessica Chastain or curvy like Jennifer Lawrence, but they are definitely white.

We don’t see these women as beautiful, white women; we see them simply as beautiful women, the standard by which all women are to be judged. This places a heavy burden all women because the standard is unrealistic (After all, even Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence don’t really look like the photographed versions of themselves. They don’t get up in the morning with their hair and makeup perfectly arranged.  They are not always perfectly posed and perfectly lighted), but for Black women, the burden is outrageously heavy. They have the wrong skin and the wrong hair. They cannot aspire even to approximate the appearance of these goddesses. They are devalued. They are put down. They are made to feel inferior, by the way that we think about beauty.

The Center of the History and the Bearers of Civilization

The way we tell the history of our country  provides another example. The heroes are all White. We tell of Christopher Columbus, of George Washington, of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.  We tell of the brave Pilgrims who settled Plymouth Colony and the valiant families who crossed the prairies to settle the West: all White. We ignore the fact that much of our country was settled by the work of Black slaves and that at least ¼ of all the cowboys in the nineteenth century were Black.

We did not set out to create a distorted picture of our history, but history is always written by the winners, and in the last 200 years, White people have been the main winners. So, we told our story, the White story, and like every writer of history, we ignored or were unaware of the distortions that we introduced. And there were distortions. The United States has never been an all-white country, and Black people have had a large role in building it, but that is not the way that we tell the story.

The (mostly) unintended effect of the way that we recount our history has been to make White people appear to be the human ideal and the bearers of civilization, while other races appear to be inferior. That appearance of inferiority places a heavy burden on Black people.  What can their ideals be? What can they be proud of in their past?  How can they see their ancestors as heroes? How can they not be humiliated?

The Privilege of Not Being Humiliated or Denigrated

In short, White privilege includes the privilege of not being humiliated or denigrated by the standards of our society, and we must find a way to eliminate the burdens that white privilege imposes on Black people. We White people must find a way to understand that we cannot build a society of freedom and brotherhood by humiliating and denigrating a large share of its people. We do not have to give up our heroes or our standards of beauty, but we must recognize that they are not the only heroes or the only standards. They are our standards, but other standards may also be valid.

Many of us have already made this leap in religion. We continue to follow our separate faiths, but we see each of them as a partial view of a truth that we cannot really grasp. We recognize that other faiths also have validity, and we find ways to pray together.

We must reach that point with regard to racial differences, as well. We must learn that beauty takes many forms. We must understand that we share our country and our history with people who are different from us, and we must learn to see our shared history in a way that highlights their contributions as well as ours.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What is "White Privilege?" A White Man Begins to Learn.

What is "White Privilege?"

What is “white privilege,” and why is it so hard for White people to see it? 

As a White man, I have thought about this question, and here is a part of the answer I have arrived at. There is undoubtedly more to this question than I can see now, but this is where my thinking as arrived at this moment, and I hope that what I have to say will help others to see the reality of white privilege.

As I see it now, white privilege is the privilege of not having to deal with the dangers, barriers and inconveniences that Black people in the United States have to deal with all the time. It is hard for us White people to see white privilege because we have nothing to contrast it with. We have never had to deal with the dangers, barriers and inconveniences that Black people face. So, we don’t think about them. We don't feel privileged, and we are surprised when we are spoken of as if we were. 

However, it is certainly true that Black people face dangers, barriers and inconveniences that we White people do not have to face.

Dangers that Black People Face

Black people face real, physical dangers in our society.

  • If they are stopped by the police, they are much more likely than White people to be killed or beaten.
  • If they are not killed by the police, they may be killed by vigilantes just for walking through a neighborhood, as we saw in the case of Trayvon Martin.
  • If they are accused of a crime, they are much more likely to be convicted. If they are convicted, they are more likely than white people to serve long prison sentences.

Barriers that Black People Face

Black people also face barriers to economic advancement that white people do not face.

  • Because of racial prejudice, they are often the “last hired and first fired” from many jobs.
  • On average, their families are poorer than White families, and so, on average, it is harder for them to pay for the education that would help them out of poverty.
  • Because of discriminatory real estate and lending practices, Black people who own homes tend to live in areas where property values are lower than they are in White neighborhoods. As we know, a family home is the principal form of wealth for most Americans, and so, Black people have a harder time accumulating wealth than White people do.
  • One of the legacies of past discrimination is that most of our public and private institutions are controlled by White people, and therefore, black people often lack the personal contacts that may facilitate success in our society.
  • Because people tend to associate with other people who are “like them,” Black people in school and in the work place are often excluded from the groups that provide support and encouragement. Note that this exclusion is not intentional or consciously racist, but that does not prevent it from forming a barrier to a Black person’s advancement.
These are examples of what is often called "institutional racism." It is racism that is perpetuated not by the racist feelings or ideas of individuals but because of the ways that our institutions and social practices have developed historically.

Inconveniences that Make Life Difficult

Black people also suffer from a number of annoying inconveniences that become a drum-beat of irritation that is a constant feature of their lives. One of these is the “crime” of “driving while Black.” This refers to the fact that they are much more likely than White people to be stopped by the police for no obvious reason.  Several Black people have told me of such experiences. The experience of being stopped by the police in this way is also connected to Black people’s realistic fear of being killed by the police.  So, even those who have never been threatened personally in this way live with the fear of it.

Another inconvenience is that Black people who go into stores or restaurants are ignored by the staffs of those places more often than White people are. Fear of such treatment is one of the factors that lead middle class Black people to dress well.  They know that if they look respectable, they are less likely to be treated as if they were not.

Black people are angered and humiliated by such treatment, as anyone would be, and the anger and  humiliation embitter their lives. Naturally, they resent such treatment, and they struggle to make the rest of us work with them to build a society in which they do not have to be angry or humiliated. In this, they seem to me to be perfectly justified.

I Hope that this has Helped

The above examples are very far from a complete list of the dangers, barriers and inconveniences that Black people suffer from in our society, but I hope that they show a little of what Black people in our society have to deal with, and I hope that the reader can begin – as I have begun – to appreciate the reality of “White privilege.”