Recently, chilling videos surfaced online of young University of Oklahoma students, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, reciting a racially-charged chant. The story appeared surprising for numerous reasons. Among them, education is supposed to reduce racial resentment (or at least temper outward expressions of it), and young people, known as Millennials, are supposed to be uniquely tolerant. The incident offers an opportunity to reevaluate how we think about racism in America, and how we can fight it.
In preparation for the 2016 presidential election, Democrats appear united around one candidate, while the Republican contest remains far from secured. Many on the left, who view Hillary Clinton’s stances as a tame brand of liberalism, have attempted to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to run. But the progressives do not need a charismatic leader. Instead, they need to invest in unleashing the disgruntled progressive majority.
When discussing race, the conservative argument is best expressed by the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts: “The best way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Translation: America has done bad things in its history, but those bad things are gone now, so we should move past those horrors and look forward.
Conservatives believe that if blacks and Latinos simply work hard, get a good education and earn a good income, historical racial wealth gaps will disappear.
In America, there is a strongly held conviction that with hard work, anyone can make it into the middle class. Pew recently found that Americans are far more likely than people in other countries to believe that work determines success, as opposed to other factors beyond an individual’s control. But this positivity comes with a negative side — a tendency to pathologize those living in poverty.
Most people want to believe that their place in the world is something they earned, either through hard work, preparation, or both. I understand this sentiment. As a native of a country that reveres Horatio Alger-inspired tales of upward mobility, the idea that our status might be attributed to something we can’t control seems unfathomable.
When Congress narrowly missed another government shutdown in December by passing the “cromnibus” bill, much of the press coverage focused on Capitol Hill’s ongoing dysfunction. However, buried inside the bill was yet another blow to campaign finance regulations, dramatically increasing the amount of money donors can give to political parties. A single couple can now give up to $3.1 million to a political party over a two-year election cycle, a six-fold increase.