“Silence is violence.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“What’s his name?” “George Floyd!”
Here you have three slogans that sum up the protests: 1) You’re either with us or against us. 2) The death of one is the death of all. 3) We are not anonymous and our lives matter.
You can add to that some descriptions:
“You are a racist because of where you live.”
“You are a racist because of the company you keep.”
“You are a racist because you refuse to protest.”
“You are a racist.”
These are things that have been said directly and indirectly to me.
I suppose they are all true in varying degrees.
But I won’t be protesting any time soon.
I won’t point to any of the stances I’ve taken on race and inequality in the past, amply detailed on this blog; that’s what the “search” function is for. Apparently what happened before doesn’t matter anyway. The only true believers in justice and equality are the people who say it now, today, loudly, en masse.
That many of these same outraged fighters for justice are people who voted for the President because they hated Hillary, or worse, because they didn’t think it mattered, or worst, because they don’t even believe in voting? Not relevant.
The heroes today are in the streets. You are with them or you are against them.
Now let me help you out with some facts.
Racism is systemic and it is a function of economic inequality. Where some people have everything and most others have inordinately less, there has to be a philosophy and a system of rules that keep those with less in place. In the U.S., that system is racism. It’s been around for going on five centuries now, and is responsible for things like slavery, Black Codes, redlining, peasant sharecropping, segregation, employment discrimination, lynching, police brutality, extra-judicial killings, stereotyping, and many other inventive devices.
You are not going to break it with civil war. That’s been tried.
Or with violent protests. That’s been tried.
Or with peaceful ones. That is being tried.
Inequality is built into the U.S. Constitution and into the emotional fabric of the U.S.A. The Constitution was written to set forth a framework for property laws, the relationship of slaves to white people, and the methods through which white people could vote to maintain those white-slave relationships while not infringing on the rights of other white people. The civil rights sections of the Constitution were “amendments,” a/k/a “add-ons.” The document itself, shorn of the Bill of Rights? It is a property document, a kind of deed in fee simple for the lives and labor of human beings.
The United States operates on two simple principles. 1) You can keep as much as you can legally take, and 2) The government can’t regulate how rich you become.
As economists and sociologists and the lives of ordinary people have proven beyond any reasonable doubt, these principles, built as they are on concepts of economic and social inequality, lead to economic and social inequality. Who knew?
Racism doesn’t cause inequality except to the extent that inequality, the idea that some people should be able to have everything and others shouldn’t have anything, is built, supported, and perpetuated through racism. The chicken, in this case, most definitely came first. But even if it didn’t …
In the same vein, after the abolition of slavery and segregation, the only tool that the government has to reduce inequality is the institution of progressive taxation. That’s it. The only way to make fewer people perpetually poor is to tax in a way that fewer people are perpetually rich.
And this, America will never do. It has nothing to do with party or whether you’re liberal, conservative, libertarian, or something else. It simply has to do with America’s conviction that wealth without limits is the human ideal.
Limiting unfettered wealth and its acquisition infringes on the fantasy that anyone can become Steve Jobs or Michael Jordan, but most crucially, it requires you to take away the money and power of the people who have the money and power.
You cannot do that because they will not allow it. If you think Joe Biden is going to progressively tax the rich so that 84% of all families in America are no longer below the mean in ownership of wealth, you are mistaken. If you think that the 1% of the people who own 40% of the nation’s wealth are going to ever give that up, no matter how many slogans you shout, you are mistaken.
If you think that the tax schemes of the 1950’s in which high earners were taxed up to 90% of their income is ever coming back, you are mistaken. If you think that shareholders who are making billions in a rising stock market while 40 million people go jobless are going to give up those profits, you are mistaken.
And if you think your slogan is going to change the tax code, you need to, maybe, think a little more carefully about your slogan.
Whatever names you call me, they’re probably not too far off, but name calling is not going to stop me from advocating in my own way, on my own terms, for the things that I think matter in the way I see fit.
Support people and policies who advocate a fair distribution of wealth. A whole host of interpersonal issues get resolved when you have a roof over your head, food in your belly, healthcare, and a good education.
And in the meantime, ride yer fuggin’ bike.
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