Charlie Pierce believes America can never fully overcome its racial animosities:
The honest conclusion to be drawn from what is going on in Missouri now is that we may have reached the limits of the American idea, of the American dream, of the American experiment. This country, it is fair to conclude, cannot exist without some manifestation of its fundamental racial divide. Slavery, followed by Reconstruction, followed by American apartheid, followed by the Civil Rights movement, followed by Wallace and white backlash, followed by the election of Barack Obama followed by the shooting of Trayvon Martin, followed by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, followed by the strangulation of Eric Garner -- where'd he go, by the way? -- and the shooting of Michael Brown. Maybe we should admit it to ourselves, we of the dwindling white majority, that the racial divide is something essential to holding our idea of the country together. It may be that we cannot unify ourselves without fashioning every 50 years or so, a new suit of clothes for old Jim Crow. White people will be a minority in this country, and very soon. Maybe the racial divide is all we have left.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinks the real problem is class:
This fist-shaking of everyone's racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.I see an interaction between race and class. My Italian ancestors, and Charlie Pierce's Irish ancestors, were despised in this country, too, but the majority culture eventually embraced us. I think in large part it's because white ethnics reached for a piece of the pie at a time when America was making more pies, and sharing them broadly. White skin helped, too, obviously -- but we benefited from some decades of economic expansion before the Depression hit.
And that's how the status quo wants it.
The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it's crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.
By contrast, blacks were excluded from full participation in the larger economy for a century after the Civil War. When did the door opened a crack? Just before the economic turmoil of the 1970s -- which was the beginning of a period when overall inequality began to increase. The wealth of the middle class hasn't expanded much since the Nixon years, so white America feels it has no extra pie to go around. The rich, as Abdul-Jabbar says, just keep baking more and more pie. But they're not sharing -- and they're taking more and more pie from middle-class whites. Therefore, middle-class whites resent demands for pie from anyone else.
It's probably more than that. We may never be capable of color-blindness, as Pierce says. But it would be nice to have an economy that's expanding for everyone, in order to know for sure. Or just for its own sake.