The USA’s toxic culture of white wealth

“Despite all evidence to the contrary, blaming black culture for racial inequality remains politically dominant. And not only on the Right.”—–Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman

This morning I read the latest attempt to chip away at the “culture of poverty” mythology that has survived all previous attempts to debunk it. Published in the always interesting Jacobin Magazine, the article “The Poverty of Culture” by Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman got me rethinking my own ideas on the subject.

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Photo Credit: Jacobin 

So here goes a BobboSphere reaction to the Jacobin article:

If you believe the dominant narrative in today’s mass media and political culture, racial inequality and its accompanying economic inequality is the fault of  African Americans  because of their supposed “culture of poverty”. This monstrous canard has been disproved in countless studies, but somehow its proponents never get voted off the island.

What the corporate owned media does not dwell upon  is the toxic “culture of wealth” that exists within the white corporate elite (yes, it is still white dominated). They prefer to overlook the white corporate elite’s propensity toward coldblooded mass violence in the form of the wars they help start, of their criminality as evidenced by their massive financial and environmental crimes, or their contempt for work as shown by the habit of driving down wages, and assigning jobs based on race and gender while treating employees with inhumane disrespect. 

In fact, given their small numbers, the amount of crime and social chaos the white wealthy generate with their racialized cultural pathology should be a source of national alarm and calls to action. Instead our national leadership showers them with accolades, tax breaks and government subsidies.

Occasionally one of them, like a Bernie Madoff, who gets too far out of line, is held up to public scorn and  sometimes even prosecuted. But it is always the fault of a few bad apples in an otherwise glorious orchard of  plenty, watched over by a concerned white corporate class  who always knows best.

But it is not enough to sanction an occasional upper class white miscreant. That is not sufficient to maintain the credibility of corporate capitalism. The public memory is short and one cannot lock up upper class white miscreants every week. So another group must be found to blame for the social problems which cannot be hidden or easily explained away.

In other nations it has been Jews, Irish Catholics, kulaks and myriad others who are assigned the job of national scapegoat. But in the USA it is the African American poor. Their supposed “culture of poverty” is the reason for the economic shortcomings of the USA. Just ask Fox News, CNN or the NYT.

Volia! American capitalism with its integral institutional racism is off the hook. Instead it is “lazy fathers, welfare mothers, saggy pants and loud  rap music” that is to blame. Even with the application of mass incarceration to African Americans, “those people” never seem to learn. That this monstrous stereotype is repeated  by some supposedly progressive people shows how deep institutional racism really is in this country.

Even some prominent African Americans repeat variations of this myth: Bill Cosby, Al Sharpton and Barack Obama being among them. An entire racial mythology has been  created to divert attention away from the toxic depredations of the white wealthy who are the dominant power in this nation, but who somehow never have to take responsibility for the colossal messes they make.

If we are ever to achieve a genuine post-racial society, we will also have to make it a post-mythology society as well.

“Every component of the culture of poverty narrative is a phantasm, a projection of racial fantasies on to the culture of African Americans, which has for several centuries now served as the screen on which the national unconscious plays out. Put more bluntly, they are lies.”—-Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman

September 16, 2014 by
Filed under: Race and gender, Society and Economy, US politics 


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