Thursday, September 24, 2009

Race and Economy

In the past two weeks, two former presidents have weighed in on the question of race in America. Jimmy Carter stated that much of the hysterical opposition to health care reform can be attributed to racism. Bill Clinton thought that racism was not such a big issue. At Fox news sponsored teabag parties, many participants carry overtly racist signs. While no doubt some people are opposed to regulating health insurance for ideological reasons, it doesn’t seem likely that these people are aware of policy nuance. I do have a Republican neighbor who fears that health care reform will put insurance companies out of business. I was so shocked at this pronouncement I didn’t know what to answer. While President Obama may be right in saying insurance execs aren’t evil people, I am unconvinced. Pacificare in California denies 40 % of claims, according to Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. While Pacificare is concerned with profits, and not sick people, that in itself seems sociopathic.

Questions of race are linked to questions of economy. When liberals, in the late 1940’s, finally began to address questions of racial inequality, they were attacked by Republicans. Racial equality was viewed as a communist plot. While that sounds laughable today, it’s important to remember that racial equality was a platform of many socialist and communist governments. Castro, in the Cuban Revolution, fought for three things: universal healthcare, universal literacy, and an end to racism.
Historians will debate the outcome of the Cuban Revolution for years to come. It would have been nice if universal suffrage was one of Castro’s platforms. But then, it would have been great if the United States hadn’t tried, for over fifty years, to overturn the political situation in Cuba. Castro has fought tirelessly for African liberation. Revolutionaries worked for pan-Africanism as well as pan- Americanism.
Freedom House, which since 1941 has evaluated freedom around the world, has been studying the plight of freedom in the United States. One reason the United States doesn’t rate as high as people think it does is the legacy of racism, economic inequality, as well as the civil liberties we have sacrificed since Bush.

Capitalism, contrary to popular belief, is no guarantee of freedom or democracy, any more than socialism is. Economic theory doesn’t correlate with individual liberty. Crony capitalism works just fine in totalitarian regimes like Russia and China. Heck, China loves Sarah Palin.

It’s wonderful to have an African American president. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. I can’t help thinking that if the American left hadn’t been decimated by Taft Hartley and McCarthyism, the United States might have made as much progress against racism as Cuba. Anti Communist hysteria prevented anti-discrimination from being legislated sooner. Republicans seem as opposed to racial equality now as they did back then. Even many Democrats are afraid of discussing economic equality, a topic that goes hand in hand with racial equality. Jim Crow laws and institutional racism have prevented the progress this country should have made. Leftists, as well as all people of goodwill, must make racism unacceptable. I don’t believe in “thought crimes,” but I am often horrified by my own racist and sexist thoughts. It’s important to be aware of our internal monologue. Like the struggle for peace, the abolition of racism is primarily external, but extends to the internal.

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