Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One of the 47

Last night's debate seemed like a pissing contest between two boys squaring off in the school yard. Still, much came out of the meeting that proved informative but nothing that changed my opinion. Good thing, that, since I already voted. After the debate, PBS aired a special concerning race in America. Several diverse and inciteful people made comments and observations, some of which had not occurred to me before. Among them was the idea that white people for the first time see the world they are leaving for their children as worse than the one they inherited, while people of color have a much more optimistic view. This stems from the fact that the whites in America pretty much ruled the roost and had all the priviliges, while most minority families can look back one or two generations and see how things were then and how far they have come. With the country now 36% non-white, this strikes me as an element in the blending of America that I hope is taking place. Another sign of that blending is the feeling that the younger generation does not see color lines as sharply as we do. Their icons and heroes are more of a mixed bag, and though race and culture make up a huge part of a person's identity, all those factors seem to be cross-polinating. This is good, but scares quite a few of us who don't want to see it coming. Racism still exists, and we talk about it in couched terms behind closed doors. But we talk about it and some of us get downright loud, even nasty. One presenter in the special made a most interesting observation, that race and racism are a cover for class difference. I have often thought (and said) something similar, that racism is a smokescreen used by the ones in power to keep us at each other's throats so we don;t see the real issues. Divide and conquer. We use racism so we don't have to confront classism in America. We deny that there are classes here. The example the gentleman in the special cites is poverty: when we think about the poor in America we see Black faces. But poverty cuts across all racial lines. It has become a class in America. I am lily white. In fact, I'm an import from northern Europe, the whitest of lands. My parents were both Dutch, and though a Spaniard might have gotten into the mix along the way, I'm pretty much ethnically un-mixed. I live in a state which has very few people of color, and attitudes toward those people fall in line with white attitudes nationwide. I have no illusions. Anyway, I am a white dude in a white state, and of a certain age. Diane and I will earn just enough money in 2012 to stay above the poverty line. It looks like we may not even have to pay Federal taxes this year, making us part of the 47%. This after a lifetime of paying our fair share. In fact, due to an odd set of circumstances, in 2011 our tax rate was about double that which Mitt Romney paid. We are doing fine. Things are tight for us, as they are for millions of Americnas, but we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. The point is that we are not part of the upper class, the upper middle class, or the middle class. We are both well educated and well spoken and, racially, part of the majority, but fiscally we don't belong. As for savings, we don't have any. It is so very nice of Mitt Romney to offer tax breaks for middle class families saving up to $250,000. Most of the people I know have trouble saving $250. A good number of them had their savings invested in their homes before the bubble burst on GW's watch. There is a ruling class in America. Under that elite group there are several layers separated not by race but by income, education, living conditions. All too often racial minorities find disproportionate numbers from their ranks within the lower levels, but this is changing, and the winds of change usually foreshadow the storm to come.

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