It’s insulting and off putting to tell an unknown working class person that they are bigoted and to ignore their concerns. We all have bias and predetermined beliefs about groups of people. However, working class folks are no more, probably less bigoted or biased than the progressive “betters” talking down to the rubes. To accuse them of being deplorable and bigoted as a way of dismissing their issues is convenient. And without an actual basis in fact. Assumptions made by some in their well-educated echo chambers does not make those assumptions true.
Someone in a small town lost his good construction job in the last recession, his wife had her hours cut back to 29 per week at the underfunded school and their home was foreclosed. The narrative that they resent immigrants, blacks or lgbt folks is largely false for the average person. They are probably less misogynistic than their self proclaimed elites who view women as their sexual entitlement. Their narratives on race may be less advanced but many of them were part of the Obama coalition. And blue collar folks didn’t write the 1994 crime bill with its disparate impact on black folks. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden did.
Blue collar folks opposed gay marriage. For about two years longer than Barack Obama did. Hillary Clinton came out in favor of same sex marriage around the time that the landmark Obergefell case was being argued before the Supreme Court, just months before her most recent presidential campaign. Yet, after sitting in church for years and being told by well educated clergy that homosexuality was a sin and gay marriage needed to be opposed, working class folks took an extra year or two more before they dropped their opposition to same sex marriage than it took Obama or Clinton. Deplorable. To be sure, the religious right still prattles on in opposition to LGBTQ issues, looking for a political wedge. But most Joe Sixpacks stopped giving a darn about the religious right unless their pastor just can’t let it go, in which case most of the Sixpacks have stopped going to church at all.
Resentment of the progress of others is not the foremost thing on most of their minds. They would like broad band internet to start a new business, or some construction work and better infrastructure or someone to listen to their plight and not say, “shut up, you’ve had yours”. These folks have worked hard all their lives, contributed in their communities and are fair minded and open hearted. They aren’t going to be real receptive to any politician who hasn’t experienced their loss and who doesn’t seem to want to even engage them but, rather, assumes the worst of them. They helped elect Obama hoping for change and some of them voted for Trump for the same reason. They voted for him in spite of his words, not because of them.
Meanwhile the elites pose as holding the high ground while they have largely and recently excluded blacks from the Academy in Hollywood. Powerful media sages on the left, just as much as on the right, have mistreated women and thought sexual assault and harassment were their entitlement as powerful men, while being abetted at times by powerful women who kept silent. All while proclaiming “correct” thinking to the rubes. Until very recently, SNL thought gay jokes were funny. The hypocrisy is not lost on the average person in fly over country.
And progressives telling a former electrician that they’ve got his back with a $15/hour minimum wage and that he’s voting against his interests have no idea that he’s now making a meager living doing home repairs in his depressed community for the few people who can afford to hire him and want to give him work. Or he is a farm hand who hires out to drive a combine during harvest. He is self employed, as are millions of Americans. Minimum wage is irrelevant to these folks because they don’t have an employer. No one in either party speaks to him except when talking down to him if he is not inclined to vote as they see fit.
Meanwhile, Wall Street machinates new ways of sucking money from flyover country into corporate coffers on the coasts or overseas. After all, eminent economists approve of this sort of wealth creation. Wall Street regularly buys the GOP, funds their think tanks and creates new narratives to justify its greed. It does this while also offering $225,00 per “speech” to Democratic presidential candidates, just to hedge its bets. After all, bailouts are welfare in most cases and only necessary if you’re too big to fail.
Ahh, but why doesn’t Joe Sixpack retrain and move out of his small, dying community? Not all human decisions are economic. Part of the answer is that life in that small community is familiar to him. He no more wants to make that move than a young teacher, doctor, dentist or pharmacist from the suburbs want to move to serve that same small community. Then Joe, who would be happy to learn new job skills, can’t find that training in his community because it’s not well funded there. He has to move to get retrained. That also means his wife needs to quit her modest 29 hour a week job at the local school – a job that got them their groceries after the foreclosure of their home.
The kids would have to be uprooted. It would mean leaving the local church, which bands together with the other local churches to run the food shelf at which Joe and Jane contribute and volunteer because they feel an obligation to help those who “are struggling” when Joe and Jane feel fortunate to still be eating and feeding their kids. After all, that’s what they’ve always done.
Moving would mean leaving Jane’s mom behind at her home in an assisted living facility. Joe and Jane also both hunt and much of their meat comes from the deer they shoot each fall. Hunting land in Boston may be hard to find. Their daughters and sons have friends in school, with whom they participate in a variety of activities. Jake is an slightly above average baseball player and an average singer but he is in athletics and choir at his small, local school. He would be cut from both activities at a bigger school. Jessica loves horses and her folks are hoping to get her a new horse after they had to sell her previous horse when they were being foreclosed. Prospects for boarding a horse are pretty dim in New York, especially when they won’t be able to afford a home there, even with a new job.
So yeah, they should just pick up and move because a politician promised that there would be jobs in clean energy, so long as the Sixpacks voted properly. Of course, the location of those jobs, if they ever came to be, would be on the coasts or major urban areas because, after all, corporate and political America has recognized the practicality and economic benefit in employing mostly white, suburban folks who like to live near shopping malls and eat at Olive Garden because Olive Garden only employs black folks if they can’t find anyone else.
At the same time, the elite are too busy to pay attention to flyover country anyway. There are donor dinners to attend, after all. Big Pharma needs reassurance that they can charge taxpayers as much as they’d like for medicine. Plus, there is an election coming up so it’s time to stage a quick rally in a few black communities to remind those voters that this time, yes this time, the politicians will actually care and listen to their concerns. So long as they vote properly, of course.
The GOP has apparently decided to skip the black communities and focus on their donor class and trying to scare the right voters. Plus the GOP needs to hit up Big Pharma too and swing by Wall Street to make sure they weren’t really interested in any democrat they paid for speeches.
As all this goes on, people of color are still “out of sight, out of mind”, unless they are celebrities, of course. Then it’s cool to suck up to them, maybe have them attend a rally or something. And make sure to say the right things and strike the right pose. Posturing is so huge, after all. It will all work out with the black voter in the end with no need to actually go into their communities. One might get shot or beat up by a super predator…oops…a black life that matters…err…a couple of MAGA Nigerian bodybuilders…there, got it right.
Against this backdrop, black lives are extinguished, white supremacists march, immigrants are in limbo and women are still forced to navigate a treacherous work place. Trans folks struggle to be accepted and understood. Their oppressors aren’t so much the “average Joe or Jane” as they are the rich and the powerful, with their platforms and corporate handbooks, showing poses of properness, all while only seeking power. The disadvantaged and marginalized are mere pawns to the power seekers.
In the end there are two teams and they both seek power. The leaders of each team have recognized the importance of who they need to divide, scare or otherwise make false promises to in exchange for votes. I’ve voted for presidential candidates from both parties, most recently Hillary Clinton. But along the way, both sides have followed the money and largely become the same political party, in spite of what they tell the voters. And that money has increasingly been funneled to the white enclaves in coastal and urban areas, leaving behind folks of color as well as folks in flyover country. Meanwhile women in elite America are still expected to be couch casted and trans folks are worth attention of the elites only when North Carolina’s bathroom laws are good for a sound bite during an election cycle.
All the while, the elite in academia, Wall Street, Hollywood, Washington, corporate America and the news media maintain their narratives that, of course, establish their smug superiority. And they do it by bigotry. Folks they don’t know and don’t interact with are a certain way. They have no actual evidence for that. They just deem them bitter, clingy, deplorable, racist, misogynist, homophobic and just plain stupid.
After all, it’s so satisfying to feel morally superior and to classify folks who are unknown and to attribute inferiority to them. That’s exactly how racism works. Thats exactly how misogyny works. That’s exactly how bathroom evil is assigned to trans folks by the North Carolina legislature. That’s exactly how any kind of bigotry works. But it’s especially ironic that the elite use bigotry to attribute those bigoted moral failings to the working class without even giving thought to whether that’s a fair assignment of such moral failure. And then blaming the supposed rubes for not excitedly supporting the elite in their quest for greater power. Now that is, in a word, deplorable.
Copyright Daniel Blake March 2019
One Reply to “Denied Bigotry”
You nailed it. You gave words to my unease and restless anger that has misidentified the Target. Though – how many times have I said “Money. Power” in every country we visit and the social justice remains the same. Excellent essay Dan. More. Please.