Fight for Economic Justice and Racial Justice Will Follow

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November 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm  •  Posted in Business, Teaching by  •  5 Comments

A few of my students asked if I plan to write a blog post about the election. I think many of them are trying to understand why the American electorate has chosen someone they consider to be a racist as President. It’s not an easy topic to cover in a classroom. It’s difficult to find the right words.

I want to tell them not to worry too much and everything will be okay. But I can’t yet. I’m still trying to convince myself.

My family and I lived in Michigan for 7.5 years before moving to Colorado in 2012. I think I know and understand the voters in the Rust Belt and the upper Midwest who, essentially, elected Donald Trump. I know the overwhelming majority are not racists. They’re good people who have been hit hard economically and they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. They feel compelled to shake things up in DC and if electing a repulsive clown like Trump is what it takes to “drain the swamp” they figure so be it. They’ve lost patience because neither political party has made a meaningful effort to correct the outrageous economic injustices we’ve witnessed in the past 2-3 decades.

But I also know the bigotry is real. Worse, the population of Americans who, essentially, favor racial discrimination is shockingly large. Real life characters depicted in movies like “Mississippi Burning”, “American History X” et al actually exist…today. The incidents of overt racism I’ve seen and read about since the conclusion of the election are frightening. I think I understand how the protesters feel. I think I understand how my students of color feel. I think I understand the fear. But maybe not. I am, after all, a straight middle-age white man so I haven’t been on the receiving end of the hateful discrimination they know all too well.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. She may not have been a great candidate but I think she would have been a good President. At the same time, I have to admit feeling disgusted with the Democrats who were complicit in allowing Wall Street banks to steal an entire generation worth of prosperity from the American working class. Who was punished? What has changed to prevent another economic meltdown? We have a fully re-inflated stock market and housing market, but what have we done to correct these injustices?

We have a few new capital requirements for banks but we haven’t re-gained critical provisions from the Glass-Steagall Act. The $550 trillion (yes, with a T) derivatives market remains almost entirely unregulated. The Fed is still clueless and full of Greenspan/Bernanke disciples who learned to drop money from helicopters but somehow managed to overlook regulatory lessons from the Great Depression. We still have a handful of too-big-to-fail banks who should have been broken up 7 years ago. The Fed still gives these banks free money to use for speculation and executive bonuses. Wall Street CEOs still make more in a month than a working class family can make in a lifetime. The entire financial sector produces very little of value while exerting extraordinary financial pressure on publicly traded businesses to think short term, even when it’s not in their long term interest. These pressures, just as much as NAFTA or any other trade agreement, have led to offshoring of American jobs and the elimination of middle class incomes.

While the GOP leads the charge to deregulate and enable exploitation of the working class, Democrats are only interested in increasing tax rates for the rich and increasing entitlements for the poor. These are band-aids. We’re treating the symptoms. But we’ve done nothing to bring about a cure.

What’s the cure?

The economic playing field must be level. This doesn’t mean socialism and a return to huge marginal tax rates but it does mean financial re-regulation. Wall Street has been encouraged to gamble recklessly with a robust safety net while the working class has been asked to compete globally without any meaningful safety net. Tax breaks for the rich have been handed out in the name of stimulating small business growth while simultaneously protecting monopolies and making it nearly impossible for small businesses to compete in many industries. Students have been saddled with crippling debt while the architects of the mortgage meltdown have been handed golden parachutes.

In other words, we’re being asked to play a game of Monopoly on the big board. But we don’t get $1500 to start the game, we aren’t allowed to buy railroads, utilities or properties and we can’t draw a Get Out of Jail Free card from Chance or Community Chest. All we can do is hope for lucky rolls of the dice so we can Pass Go and live to fight another day. The rules must be changed.

How do we get there?

We have to take back government one seat at a time. For me it starts in the House of Representatives and in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Republican Scott Tipton must be defeated in 2018. We can’t cry about gerrymandering or make other excuses. We have to win elections.

Marching and protesting in the streets will get people’s attention but it’s not enough. Maybe the protests will force Trump to disavow white nationalists who now feel emboldened to openly express hatred and threaten violence. I hope so. But that won’t be enough either.

The rise of racial discrimination has its roots in economic injustice. The fix must involve an effort to reconstruct the regulatory scaffolding that once protected the working class from the Banksters and Corporate Pirates who have fleeced all of us for far too long. Only then will we be able to isolate and defeat the racists and move toward a more prosperous and harmonious society.

So, to my students who feel betrayed, it’s time to grit your teeth and get ready to fight. The next battle will take place November 6th, 2018. Enlist in the political process. Vote. Take political power away from the bigots. That’s what they just did to you.

5 Comments

  1. Jon Rose / November 21, 2016 at 3:34 am / Reply

    America isn’t perfect. Even as a Patriot, I’ll admit that. But what has happened in the past8 years has set us back 40 years. The people who voted for Trump aren’t racist. In fact, Trump got more of the black vote than Romney did. I am not racist. What I do know is that Obama spoke racially more than once. He said that something must be done about white police shooting unarmed black men. When the real problem is black on black crime. Violence erupted against police. Especially for white cops. I’ve also seen people ripped from vehicles and severely beaten because they are white. Protesters have taken to the streets, overturning police cars, looting, committing arson and assults. These riots, excuse me, protests, are out of control. Our President said that they would not be told to be silenced,giving them power to commit more dangerous crimes. I support our 1st amendment but these aren’t protests. These are riots, similar to black lives matter, who Obama supports.

    • Justin / November 25, 2016 at 12:21 pm / Reply

      Hi Jon,
      Thanks for your comment. Please explain how the past 8 years have set us back 40 years. Do you mean in terms of race relations?
      Also, are you able to link to some of the sources you’re citing? I’d be curious to see these examples of riots and violence against white people through the same lens.
      Best,
      Justin

  2. Jon Rose / November 21, 2016 at 3:42 am / Reply

    People also bring up the Kkk , saying that Trump has an affiliation with them. His children have Jewish spouses. As for affiliation, Hillary’s mentor, Sen. Byrd, was a recruiter for the KKK.

  3. Rique Lucero / November 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm / Reply

    I agree. Good post.
    My sister recently went through some taunting while taking my niece to her gymnastics class. A group of white teenagers were yelling Trump, Trump, Trump in her direction while looking at her. Why she posted on Facebook about it is something I wouldn’t do, maybe she wanted to feed the trolls, we’ll she got some trolls. A white man responded that my sister was racist because maybe those teens were just happy about Trump. The man stated that color was secondary to their ignorance of their actions.

    This was my response.

    Skin color is PRIMARY to their ignorance. If they were of another color, would they have acted the same, regardless of their upbringing? They know exactly what they are, and they know exactly who they were taunting, do they not? How did they determine that the OP, didn’t vote for Trump, maybe her skin tone gave it away? There is a level of ignorance being displayed, that’s for certain.
    Not all Whites are racist, that is true, but some are, and some people of Color are racist too, but not all are. I personally don’t think anyone is racist because we all share .998% similar DNA, those who could be considered racist are more…Colorist. History has shown that even some Whites were hated when arriving to the new world, among those were the Irish, the Italians and others; they were called rapists, drug mules, job takers and other horrible names…. same things said about Mexican immigrants today. It’s just that in today’s time, because of our mixing, it’s harder to determine your history…unless you have color. Those that are Colorist give us all a bad rap, to those on the other side.
    Lumping all liberals with those meatheads that are rioting isn’t fair either. There are those liberals that share similar beliefs as the conservatives, just not as high up in their value hierarchy.
    We must keep in mind that the Civil Rights movement wasn’t that long ago and there are still issues we haven’t completely delt with as a nation of immigrants; as push back against that movement, the Republican party of today was started, by Barry Goldwater. This is the party the KKK associated with then and still does now, which is why some view the Republican party as colorist. The sad part is that those who are NOT COLORIST and do believe in conservatism, such as some of my friends and family, are tragically lumped together with the real Colorists, the KKK; for what other major party could the KKK hope to win with, what other major party can the KKK mostly identify with? The Republican party of today isn’t the same as it was then, when the KKK was a major political force. This is a reason why I hope to see more 3rd party contenders next election because not all liberals voted Clinton; as one would have hoped those teenagers could see. There are liberals who don’t want illegal immigration, anymore than their conservative counterpart. The Civil Rights leader, Caesar Chavez, advocated for legal immigration.
    As a nation of immigrants, we Americans need to stamp out colorism, wherever we see it, be it by someone of another color, but more importantly if its by someone of YOUR color.
    This election brought out the ugly side of us, but that’s GOOD because now we can have the discussion were having now, and FINALLY deal with what the Civil Rights movement failed to do; REALIZE the there is more than ONE color that makes up our AMERICAN flag, WE ARE ALL AMERICANS, we are all red, white OR blue.

    • Justin / November 25, 2016 at 12:08 pm / Reply

      Rique,
      I’m sorry to hear about your sister’s experience. I agree with your take on “colorism” – history shows how economic hardship results in blaming those who are different and color is the easiest difference to recognize. Clearly Trump used these tribal tendencies to motivate his supporters. Classic demagoguery. And eerily reminiscent of 20th Century Europe.
      It’s a time for unity and vigilance to fight the rise of right-wing hate. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
      Best,
      JH

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