Day of Reckoning

Every so often we need to list actions that are insane, inane, and inhumane.  Today, let’s do some accounting.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and José are not just a part of hurricane season.  They are part of an ever more worrisome chain of cataclysmic events caused by climate change.  Yes, we should care about the people affected—those who have lost life, property, livelihood, and clean water—in every way we can, and we have to stop causing these events, then throwing up our hands as if we don’t understand their origin, and then calling upon people to clean up the messes.

Colin Kaepernick and dozens of other NFL players are not just well-paid professional athletes with a bone to pick.  They are brave individuals who are responding to a system of oppression that we white people have created and perpetuated.  We have all witnessed the excessive use of force on African Americans, resulting in death, incarceration, and entrenched patterns that we are only now starting to acknowledge.  We shouldn’t foment racism and then criticize those who protest it, those who have a legitimate cause to question allegiance to a flag whose country has never chosen to represent their interests.  Colin Kaepernick should have a solid Title VII case working, especially given the retaliation he has suffered for his important gesture of resistance, a gesture made in a context highly visible to white men, the group perhaps most in need of lessons about United States history and present-day realities.

The events of Charlottesville didn’t happen in a vacuum.  We have spent too long neglecting the evolution of the First Amendment and indulging a long outdated interpretation of the Second Amendment.  Jeff Sessions is busy accusing college and university campuses of serving as echo chambers for people with homogeneous opinions and fragile egos, hearkening back to some mythical good old days when tough people argued out tough opinions.  Whatever good old days he may be referring to were days when colleges and universities had not yet opened their doors to many people who weren’t white or male.  Not all white males have the same opinions, but an environment that welcomes them and them only also protects them from heterogeneity and challenges to their privilege.  It creates power systems for them and them only, power systems that manifest themselves in the very type of government that is not working for many of us at this moment.  The powerful weapons available to the common person give the Second Amendment a ferocious sway over the First, as we witnessed so clearly in Charlottesville.  Open-carry laws on campuses such as The University of Texas certainly chill free speech freedoms and impulses.

It is no coincidence that Betsy DeVos is unraveling all of the equality work done by President Obama.  We created Betsy DeVos, and her toady, Candice Jackson, by allowing attack after attack on the character and actions of the most qualified candidate for the presidency, demonstrating that we can’t stand women who have earned power, and giving power to someone wholly unqualified to be Secretary of Education just because she is (1) a billionaire and (2) willing to assume that women who have been raped are liars and to give alleged rapists (Brock Turner, for example) the overwhelming benefit of the doubt.  DeVos serves to dismantle Obama-era protections, yet another demonstration of the racist need to undo all the good work done by a black president.  Trump’s proposal to Congress to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) again erases an Obama-era program and, according to this article from The Atlantic, reverses upward mobility for many of the nation’s young people.

The travel ban imposed upon Muslim-majority nations, a ban rearing its ugly head anew, now includes Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela, much to the confusion of most people who are experts in information-sharing among nations with an interest in eliminating state-sponsored terrorism.  Chad’s inclusion, even in a Trumpian worldview, is quite confusing. Trump has baited North Korea and then blamed the nation for its (admittedly) dangerous and (hopefully) unwarranted missile tests.  The ban of Venezuela, whose citizens are suffering in many ways, including vast food shortages, seems cruel and, to put it lightly, un-neighborly, especially for a nation that offered aid to the United States after Harvey and Irma. The inclusion of non-Muslim-majority nations represents a chess move on Trump’s part to attempt to make the ban appear less targeted at one religious group.

Despite recommendations from his top military advisers and servants, the “president” continues to insist that transgender individuals should not serve in the military.  We shouldn’t have to be in an uproar about having a president treat people as less than human for their race, religion, national origin, and gender identity.  These groups are supposed to be protected under the law (Title VII, 1964, and Title IX, 1972) of the United States and are now targeted by the government of the United States.

What happened to infrastructure and jobs?  Why have the “president” and Congress spent nine months trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, only to find that it is the best solution we have so far?  (They could have spent those nine months fixing certain elements of the ACA to make it even stronger.) Where are the “progress” and “greatness”?  What is beneficial, humane, kind, generous, or noble about the way the United States is conducting business these days, within the country and beyond it?

Even Forbes has a list of the ten most offensive tweets from our “president.”  A man who uses his Twitter account and the Oval Office as a policy machine, bully pulpit, and series of contradictions is running our country into the ground.

Labor Day, 2017


Tomorrow is Labor Day, 2017, here in the United States.  The White House celebrates this milestone by creating a 37% gender pay gap within its own ranks.  This The Washington Post piece (7-5-2017) informs us that, “According to the Pew Research Center, the Trump White House gender gap is wider than the national gender pay gap stood in 1980.”  I haven’t been able to find data for pay gaps based on race in the Trump White House, presumably because there are not enough employees of color hired by Trump even to generate data points. (I do not know the statistics for the long-term staff who cook, clean, and organize the day-to-day needs of this big enterprise.)  Nevertheless, we do know (Politico, 1-24-2017) that 85% of Trump’s cabinet choices are white, and 75% are male.  Henry C. Jackson writes in the piece, “The numbers don’t lie: Trump’s Cabinet is older, whiter and richer than his predecessors.”  Jackson informs us, too, that there are “no Hispanics” at all in this “president’s” Cabinet.

The second graph (above) from the Pew Research Center shows 2016 statistics on the gender and race pay gap in the United States, which at least recognizes differentials between and among Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White women and men.  According to this chart, Hispanic/Latina women in 2016 earn 58% of white men’s earnings and 70% of white women’s, and Black women earn 65% of what white men earn.  The report also states that “Black and Hispanic men have made no progress in narrowing the wage gap with white men since 1980.”  This bleak picture of the pay gap is all too familiar and long-standing, and the current party in power in its public policies and its own hiring practices is reinforcing the inequities across race and gender.  The New York Times reported last week that, “even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago.”  These data underscore the challenges of access (for example, to elite schools, graduation from which catapults students into greater areas of privilege) and the resultant inequalities that continue to plague our economic systems.  Of course, the greater the economic inequality, the more difficult life is in other areas, and this maps generally unfavorably for those who are not white.  (Just check out statistics on, for example, mass incarceration and increased lack of security of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.)

Bryce Covert writes in today’s The New York Times that the Unites States’ drop in female labor force participation (6th highest in the world in 1990; 17th highest in 2010) is due in part to “the fact that other developed countries instituted and expanded policies like paid family leaves, subsidized child care and flexible work arrangements while the United States did barely anything at all.” Add to this the decrease in women’s reproductive rights, slowness in closing the gender pay gap for all races, and the increased reports in sexual discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and you have a workplace that continues to be at least unwelcoming, if not downright hostile, to women of all races, and especially to women who are not white.

As I watch the Trump White House send message after message that white men will continue to make money on the backs of men and women of color and white women, I see the same messages communicated here in the 6th District of Virginia.  Our representative, Bob Goodlatte, has not appeared in Lexington, Virginia, to address his constituents directly since 2013. This past Thursday, Goodlatte did visit Lexington for a closed visit with area veterans of the Vietnam war (all men, mostly white).  During recess from Congress, Goodlatte also touted his tours of Shenandoah Valley farms and agribusinesses.  Don’t get me wrong: it is perfectly fine to celebrate people who have served our nation and who produce the food we eat.  But it is not fine only to recognize the hard work of mostly men and mostly white people.  This is an elected official, with Trump as role model, who chooses only to speak to white men.

The 6th District is a lot more than veterans and farmers, and we workers of all genders and races need to have the ear of our representative.

Here I have parsed economic questions of labor according to gender and race.  In some ways, this moves against the prescriptions of the Occupy/99%/Bernie Sanders-inflected movements, which prescribe a more unified front based mostly (or maybe solely) on economic justice. Nevertheless, I do subscribe to Nancy Fraser’s argument (published here in The New Left Review, July-August 2016)  that “capitalist societies have separated the work of social reproduction from that of economic production,” associating social reproduction with women and free labor and economic production with men and remunerated labor.  Fraser suggests that we need to break this dichotomy in order to recognize and remunerate all forms of labor with a fair wage.  Given the statistics on gender and race wage gaps, we need to move in this direction, recognizing, as Fraser has said here (in Spanish; 8-23-2017), that we are all residents of this country who are capable of sustaining/earning and caring for people.