The killing of teen Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer ignited a raging debate on racism in America. Prejudice is a serious issue, but has the loud clamor on race overshadowed an even more pressing problem?
There are powerful people who would love to see the race wars continue in the media, for it creates the smoke-and-mirror effect needed to divert attention away from the “ism” which is contributing more to the pressing poverty on the rise in the US.
It's not socialism, as some on the right would have you believe, but classism. Economic class position is contributing more to the deep divide between the haves and the have nots than racism, but the narrative remains stuck on pause, with many talking heads on television hammering divisive rhetoric needed to keep the status quo.
If poor blacks and poor whites are busy fighting each other, it becomes increasingly harder to fight the real culprit that is keeping them broke and locked out of the American dream.
The propaganda machine has invested time and money into blanketing the airwaves with misinformation aimed at keeping poor whites resenting blacks for being lazy moochers living off the government dole.
Remember Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's leaked tapes?
Meanwhile blacks who are focused on racism being the primary cause of poverty will miss the bigger issue of classism now being the root of the growing inequity in this country.
William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor specializing in race and poverty, writes: "It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position."
According to USA Today, 4 in 5 in Americans currently face near-poverty. Those are staggering numbers, and though we hear the rabble rousers on television and radio who make millions selling half-truths like blacks eat up the bulk of government assistance--crushing poverty is gripping more whites than ever before.
Wilson warns that this growing poverty among whites will cause their “alienation” to increase “if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front.”
America’s poor reportedly remains at 46.2 million, which is 15 percent of the population, and while the rates are still higher for blacks and Hispanics, the number of whites in poverty is the highest in terms of bulk.
"More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks," according to USA Today.
But you will not hear these statistics quoted by any of the Friends over at Fox television or Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, John Stossel, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and all the others who make a living fueling white resentment by promoting “black blame.”
It does not fit the narrative of constantly slamming black and brown folks for languishing on "evil entitlements,” which to them create all of America’s cash-flow problems.
The growing inequality in wages, housing, education, health care and every other aspect of social life transcend color and gender. America needs to have an honest conversation and come up with sound solutions to address the burgeoning problem.
While urban poverty tends to be highest among blacks and Hispanics, rural poverty and destitution hiding in suburbia are mostly among whites.
According to reports, 60 percent of the poor in those areas are whites. Most of these demographic lives in the industrial Midwest, as well as Appalachia in the East and all across the heartland, including Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and through the Great Plains.
The Great Recession of 2008-09, along with the crippling problem of corporate outsourcing of skilled jobs to China, Bangladesh, India and other parts of Asia, have helped compound poverty.
In fact, Southern Virginia has a shocking concentrated poverty rate among whites. Buchanan County is considered one of the poorest in the nation based on median income, with poverty tipping at around 24 percent. A shocking 99 percent of the mostly white population is reportedly poor.
Add the great income divide to the already devastating financial chasm widening in America, and we have the perfect quiet storm.
Poor blacks, poor whites and poor Hispanics have more in common than they realize, for they share a common enemy, but the rabid rhetoric in the partisan media pits them against each other.
Ironically, a concentrated amount of whites in rural, poverty stricken America, vote predominantly Republican.
They vote predominantly for a party that sees many of its leaders demonize the poor, blame the growing deficit on social programs that help the poor and are fight hard to further slash budget of these programs.
Meanwhile the tea party, which is made up of primarily ordinary folks of the same demographic, hold up a confusing array of signs at rallies, accusing President Barack Obama of being a foreign-born Muslim, a socialist, fascist, mass murderer, a terrorist, an Adolf Hitler clone, a greedy capitalist and someone who has death panels aimed at killing the elderly under Obamacare, while attempting to take away their guns.
They also hold up signs calling for what has become the tea party mantra—smaller government, without actually grasping what that entails. As Robert Reich once said, it's not size of government, but who it’s working for that is the real problem.
There are no signs calling for a livable wage, tax reform, and end to tax breaks for the wealthy and companies that send jobs overseas or a serious look at income inequality.
But the deep wealth imbalance is not only in rural areas. New York’s stark income inequality was highlighted in a 3-D graphic by artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm and the tale of two cities stunning to watch.
According to reports, the wealthiest 1 percent earners in the US have raked in their biggest net worth since 1928, the year before the historic stock market crash. They have earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income in 2012.
The staggering statistics do not end there. The top 10 percent reportedly pulled in a record 48.2 percent of total earnings. Read details on their wealth found here.
The US boasts of being the world’s best, but when the 400 richest among us total wealth exceed the combined wealth of the bottom 150 million Americans yet pay an average of 17 percent of their income in taxes, America, we have a major problem. There is something dangerously wrong when those with the higest income's tax rates are lower than most day laborers and child-care workers.
Meanwhile, Social Security payroll taxes continue to climb as a share of total tax revenues. Yet the payroll tax is regressive, applying only to yearly income under $106,800. Why hasn't government reformed this tax code?
So does racism still impact many lives? Yes, but classism--with more and more of the country’s concentrated wealth moving to the small apex, while the broad base swells to breaking with more and more falling into poverty--is the bigger of two evils. I suspect if we take care of one, the other will follow.
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