Saturday, March 08, 2008

Krugman's Dismal View on Racial Intent

The biggest changes in society always seem to take a generation. We sometimes have to wait for the old generation to die off--or at least wane in influence--so that new ideas can get hold. I'm sure you've heard your grandparents say something utterly cringeworthy without a second thought. It doesn't occur to them that they might have said something inappropriate.

Racial relations in America seem to be at such a juncture. With the rise of Obama, older people (and commentators) seem to be fixated on the miracle of a black man rising in prominence. Younger people are simply transfixed by a message that they find inspiring; race is largely irrelevant for them.

I get so annoyed when people focus on race instead of substance. I care what you think and how you act, not what color you are. I think that the mainstream of American thought is with me on this.

I felt that familiar annoyance again as I listened to Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the NY Times, giving a lecture. He was trying to make a case that conservatives use codewords like "welfare" to exploit the racist leanings of their audiences. Huh? Would it be so implausible to believe that people actually mean what they say? I'm including the video that sparked this post so that you can judge for yourself the quality of Krugman's argument about race in politics. See particularly chapter 8 around 22:33.

If I say I'm concerned about welfare, or families, or taxes, or illegal immigration and identity theft, the chances are that I mean exactly that. I'm not trying to secretly push a racist or an ethnic agenda. There are simply issues that resonate with me and that I think are important. I'm not driven by the political battles of a past age that are largely settled.

We're in the clean-up stages of our country's battle against racism. I don't deny the reality of it in the past, and I don't deny that it still occurs today. But we are structurally past it and blatantly racist sentiments are commonly reviled. I'm fully on board with the sentiment expressed so eloquently by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is paraphrased to say that we judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I plead with the older generation to move past the race debates of bygone days. Though there is still work to do and progress to be made, that debate is won.


Laurene Ross said...

Brad, I did not get to watch the video, but I did get to witness something today that really bothered me. I was standing in line at a grocery store. In front of me was a family of latin decent. As they spoke no english to each other or the checker I assumed they were not legal. Now I may be to quick to judge. That being said this was my experience;
The lady gave the checker some form, I could not see what it was. I watched as she checked out a series of items; first Gallon of milk and eggs, the checker has the lady sign the form, then she produces another form same process ,Gallon of milk and this time OJ, checker has her sign, Produces the third form, Milk and beans, checker has her sign. No real communication - just a series of nods. I would expect this transaction of all this food to be around 20.oo or so dollars. No money was exchanged here. I did notice the form at the end { as I backed up so I could see. I was curious.} Free Milk US goverment on some sort of lable. The kicker was when the next trasaction took place. The checker rang up two cases of Bud Light, two pkgs of cigaretts, slim jims and two liters of soda. This rang up to Forty Dollars, which was paid in cash. Something is wrong here. I have no idea how to fix this. Do you?

Reach Upward said...

The common term for Krugman's ruminations is "projection." Being himself fixated on race, he assumes that all evil conservatives are likewise fixated on race. Krugman can't fathom people that don't think this way. At any rate, setting up straw men to tear down certainly makes it easier for him to attack his political opponents.

Let me just say with respect to Laurene's comment that when I worked as a bagging and checking at a grocery store, I saw events like the one she was describing. I saw them occur all the time. And frankly, it burned my toast whenever I saw it.

But let me also say that it wasn't a racial thing. I saw people of all kinds of skin hues and linguistic capacities buying beer, cigarettes, and candy after completing their taxpayer funded WIC purchases. I frankly didn't care what color these people were or from whence they hailed. I didn't like the fact that taxpayers were effectively subsidizing their frivolous purchases.

Bradley Ross said...

Laurene, I don't see any way out of the problem that you cite. I'm currently at the conclusion that this is something we must be okay with if we're going to be okay giving out any welfare at all. I base my conclusion on the actions of one branch president who took the principle of self-reliance to a whole new level--replacing mercy in my view. You can read about him here.

Laurene Ross said...

Brad I understand what you mean when you say replacing mercy, I tend to move towards this man's opinion, however. I was cleaning a lady's house in our ward because she was being evicted for the third time in eleven months. Each time the Elders go in and pack her and her family up and the Relief Society goes in and cleans. Each time the house is filthy and we try to clean it so she can get her deposit back. She tends to be sick at this time so she can't help. Her family has two cars, all manner of electronic equitement, toys things that make you comfortable. Her husband does drink and smoke, they both work although she just had a third child two weeks ago and is off work for sometime. Do we continue this cycle or do we teach self-reliance and give some requierments. What would Jesus do? This is always at the back of my mind. I look to the temple. The temple is a house of order all who enter in have requierments that must be met. We are not a church of free rides or free hand outs in fact I think it is quite the opposite. You must sit in welfare meetings once a month and pray for those that need assistance and ponder on what the ward can do to help. We seem to have several that need help but are not willing to come half way or even a small part. They expect us to cater to ther every need, not realizing that we all have lives and problems too. Maybe this branch president has decided that to be teachable these people must be humbled.

Reach Upward said...

The Blogger of Jared post was enlightening. I think each church unit has to approach matters according to the conditions of the members of that particular unit. That's why we have local congregational leaders.

I did not see much in the post that runs counter to church doctrine. I do not like the idea of forcing everyone to liquidate long-term savings. That should probably be handled on a case-by-case basis. I have to say that I recoiled a bit at the requirement that welfare applicants needed to first seek government aid before coming to the church. I'm not sure that is in keeping with principles of self reliance.

Also, building cleaning participation may need to be altered for people with physical problems. Each welfare recipient should do perform some meaningful work. The Bishop and Welfare Council can determine what is best for each recipient.

Almost all of the other requirements are things that the Bishop should (per the manual) discuss and implement with each welfare applicant. So this is not as harsh as it may seem. It's basically letting people know in advance what they should be hearing anyway when they go into the Bishop's office.

How does mercy apply? Considering the ideal, you take people where they are and require of them what they are capable of doing toward that goal. Then members sacrifice to make up the difference as best they can. The Savior does this with each of us. He expects us to do all that we can, however much that happens to be. He takes care of the rest -- even if it kills him.