The Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class Blacks

Earlier, I referenced an essay by economist and writer Marcellus Andrews in the Black Commentator titled “No Exit in Black/ Trapped by the Economy and Politics.”

In his essay, Andrews voices the concern that “the unique solidarity between the black middle class and the black poor will soon end as the pressure of economic survival turns former allies into enemies.” He goes into detail about this:

The hard truth of our time is that the economic needs of poor black people are much closer to those of other poor Americans than they are to those of middle class blacks. Poor blacks, like all poor people in America, need an immense array of social goods and services that they cannot pay for – from health care and education to safe streets and housing. Middle class blacks, like all middle class Americans, want high quality public services balanced against low taxes in a society of self-reliant individuals.

Middle class black people support greater degrees of regulation and redistribution in economic life because they are poorer than whites and are still subject to discrimination. But the black middle class does not need or want government to the same degree as poor blacks because they are no longer trapped in the basement of the American job market. Many middle class black people are no more interested in paying taxes to support poor people than their white counterparts, not least because they see themselves as proof that hard work and perseverance in the face of white nationalism can pay off in still all-too-racist America.

Some people will say that the black middle class’s slow abandonment of the black poor is a sell out to white America, the act of selfish Uncle Toms who have forgotten what it is like to suffer as racial and class outcasts in this society. Nothing could be further from the truth or more irrelevant. Black middle class abandonment of the black poor is perfectly consistent with a strong sense of racial pride that nonetheless blames poor black people for making their bad situation worse. It is perfectly possible for middle class blacks to be angry at conservative white people and poor black people at the same time.”

Now there is evidence which bears out Andrews’ concerns. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last year, which is reported in “Optimism about Black Progress Declines – Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class,” reveals income/class differences in the views of black Americans on a range of issues. The Center is a non-partisan think tank.

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Why We Can’t Get Ahead: It’s All Our Fault.

Why can’t we get ahead? According to most black folks, it’s all our fault.

That’s one of the findings in a report by the Pew Research Center titled Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class – Optimism about Black Progress Declines. The report is based on a survey on racial attitudes was conducted by the Center in the fall of 2007. The Center is a nonpartisan think tank.

According to the report:

Why Some Blacks Lag Behind: Personal Factors or Discrimination?

Fully two-thirds of all Americans believe personal factors, rather than racial discrimination, explain why many African Americans have difficulty getting ahead in life; just 19% mostly blame discrimination.

While clear differences exist between white and black views on this question, these racial disparities are significantly less pronounced than those observed in other areas covered by this survey, including questions that measured perceptions of the overall levels of discrimination faced by blacks.

Overall, most whites (71%), Hispanics (59%) and a narrow majority of blacks (53%) believe that blacks who have not gotten ahead in life are mainly responsible for their own situation. At the same time, three-in-ten blacks (30%) blame racism for failures to advance, a view shared by 24% of all Hispanics and 15% of whites.

The survey also suggests that attitudes about what is more to blame for the failure of many blacks to advance appear to be strongly related to perceptions of discrimination against blacks.

For example, about four-in-ten blacks (37%) who believe African Americans are often discriminated against when applying for jobs also say discrimination is the main reason why some blacks don’t get ahead. But among blacks who say employment discrimination is relatively infrequent, only 15% believe bias is the major obstacle for black advancement.

A similar pattern is apparent among whites. About a third (34%) of whites who believe job discrimination against blacks is common say discrimination is mainly to blame for the fact that many blacks fail to advance. This view is held by just 11% of whites who say this form of racial bias is uncommon. Similarly, four-in-ten Hispanics who say blacks frequently are discriminated against when seeking work say discrimination is to blame for lack of black advancement, roughly double the proportion of Hispanics (19%) who say anti-black bias in employment is rare.

The report has of food for thought. Highly recommended reading. I’ll make another post based on the report in a day or so.

Defending Michelle Obama

It is great to see so many in the Afrosphere/Afrospear stand up for Michelle Obama. She has been the subject of many attacks that seem to be uniquely based on her ethnic origin.

The Black Snob addresses the issue head on:

Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She’s always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They’re usually angry about something. They’ve had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don’t really have a profile of non-angry black women. — Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas on Michelle Obama being an “angry black woman,” FOX News Watch, June 14.

Black people have long had to live with the stigma that we’re rougher and more horrifying than other people. That somehow we’re more violent and scary and immoral, stereotypes that have existed since wealthy white landowners had to come up with excuses why it was OK to enslave an entire group of people. Black men are menacing and black women are vulgar harridans, screaming obscenities while engaging ball busting.

Many were appalled at Cal Thomas for bringing up the “angry black woman” meme, viewing it as both racist and sexist, and it is. When other women speak their mind, they’re just talking. When a black woman says why she’s proud of America after seeing the results of her husband’s historical campaign she’s an awful witch who wants to destroy all white people. The complete 360 degree turn of hyperbole is attempted over and over again. And with so few images of black women in the media it’s easy to fall back on old stereotypes — the whore, the mammy and the bitch.

Michelle Obama is too chaste and married to be a whore, too independent and smart to be a mammy, so all that’s left is the bitch. And that is the category all educated, independent minded, straight-no-chaser women, black or white, are put in.

The Jack and Jill web site asks, where are the feminists who defended Hillary Clinton against sexists attacks, and why aren’t they defending Michelle Obama? It’s a good question, and there hasn’t been a good answer that I’ve seen.

Heck, even Laura Bush has defended Michelle Obama.

Meanwhile, the Michelle Obama Watch site has been created to, in the site’s words, to be “a repository of all of the criticism, praise, and general chicanery thrown at Michelle Obama between now and November.” It’s worth a quick look.

Political Musings 6/24/08

One effect of the long, drawn-out Democratic presidential primary was the toll it took on presidential candidate Barack Obama’s financial warchest.

Through the end of May, the Obama campaign raised $287,397,945, and spent $244,250,611. At the end of May, the campaign had $43,147,333 million on hand. This information is available from the excellent web site

Through the same period, the McCain campaign raised $119,594,596. But because his expenditures were lower-the GOP race was decided long ago-McCain had only spent $83,633,159. He had $35,961,436 million on hand at the end of May.

As noted out by Truthout.Org:

For the first time in the campaign, Republican John McCain in May raised about the same amount of money, $22 million, as Democrat Barack Obama…

Obama spent $27 million in May… $4 million for television ads, $3.3 million for travel, $3 million for direct mail, and nearly another $3 million for phone banking. He spent another $1.7 million on print advertisements and nearly another million dollars on Internet ads.

Meanwhile, McCain spent just $12 million. The Arizona senator dropped about $3.5 million on television ads and spent another $1.4 million on postage. No other spending category for the month of May reached a million dollars.

Having effectively wrapped up his party’s nomination, McCain spent the month focused almost exclusively on replenishing his coffers. His schedule was dominated by money-generating events that helped produce his biggest fundraising month to date.

This is one reason why some folks were hoping Sen Hillary Clinton would concede the Democratic presidential race earlier than she did…

Barack Obama has decided to opt-out of public financing for his general election campaign. This caused John McCain, as the LA Times put it, to have a “hissy fit.”

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Civil Rights Movement Photos on Exhibit in Atlanta

A Freedom Ride bus is fire-bombed outside Anniston, AL, in 1961.

Above: a Greyhound bus with 14 members of an interracial group that was part of the Freedom Ride was firebombed on May 14, 1961, outside Anniston, Ala.

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has opened an exhibit that brings to light many new images of the civil rights movement, along with the struggles of the photographers who made them. The show is titled “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968.”

The exhibit is discussed here in an article in the New York Times.

There is also a link to a slideshow of pictures from the exhibit, called the Unseen Movement, which includes the photograph shown above.

Remembering the Martyrs of Freedom Summer 1964

FBI photo of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman.

Today marks a sad date in American history. On June 21st, 1964, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman (seen above in FBI photos), three Freedom Summer volunteers, were killed by a white mob in Mississippi.

As described here:

On June 21, 1964, three young civil rights workers—a 21-year-old black Mississippian, James Chaney, and two white New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24—were murdered near Philadelphia, in Nashoba County, Mississippi. They had been working to register black voters in Mississippi during Freedom Summer and had gone to investigate the burning of a black church.

They were arrested by the police on trumped-up charges, imprisoned for several hours, and then released after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, who beat and murdered them. It was later proven in court that a conspiracy existed between members of Neshoba County’s law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan to kill them.

Justice for these killings was slow in coming:
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