Their Poverty, Their Race

Race and poverty are the two edges of the capitalist sword. Poverty is far over-represented by people of colour. It follows that the problems that are born of poverty: homelessness, education struggles, crime, are also over-represented by people of colour. Because the problems are correlated to colour, it is easy for us Whites to look at the issue from afar and imagine that the cause of all these problems somehow is caused by race. The connection may not be definitively stated (at least not publicly), it is subconsciously accepted.

“If those people could only lift themselves up by their bootstraps like I did, or like my parents did,” is the the common sentiment. And “Why should I pay more taxes to support a social safety net when these people simply refuse to help themselves?”

On a more global scale, we can easily extend this thinking to our “enemies”. We can create labels like “terrorist” and “jihadist” and “Islamicist” and “radicalized” to distract ourselves from the real issues that has made us an enemy of other people. By doing this, we can ignore the reasons for their anger. Having successfully labelled the enemy, we see no issue other than the fact that those people are “just that way”. We don’t actually know them, so it is convenient for us to believe that we have done nothing wrong. We are good people, right. Hell, we even contribute to charity. What more do they want from us?

We privileged people seem to take comfort in this. It’s them. It’s their inherent flaws that make them the way they are, and it’s my good character that propels me to success. I can sleep at night in my little suburban fortress, lulled by the delusion that I deserve what I have, unlike that the seething mass of poor people that far outnumbers me, that has been exploited, often brutally so that I may have what I have. To support my delusion, I have a well-armed law enforcement agency and a weighty justice system on my side protecting my segregation from them. And it’s just a fact. I don’t wander into “certain neighbourhoods”.

We tut-tut about the Warsaw ghetto – how the Nazis rounded up thousands of Jews, interned them in a small sector of the city and stripped them of all rights and dignity, while we ignore our own ghettos. And we keep lowering funding to any public sector agency that can offer any real hope for equity: the most effective being public education.

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