The end goal is to improve America, but regarding equality the goal is to create the conditions where blacks can enjoy the agency they deserve and share in the social mobility enjoyed by the rest of America.
That way its in their hands to be everything they can be.
I delayed my response to reflect on the conversation thus far, and this post in particular. I believe you would have a difficult time finding anyone within the African-American community who would disagree with the bottom line that you've stated. Whatever issues we may have, we're Americans first, and that whole life, liberty and the pursuit business means as much to us as anyone. Perhaps even more given our history.
If our goals are the same and even our view of the major roadblocks are the same, then there must be some compelling reason that most African-Americans don't see eye to eye with most white Conservatives about how to overcome those obstacles. Those disagreements are rooted in a radically different historical and cultural experience that has informed a strongly divergent understanding of what will constitute a solution. Anyone seeking to create legislation that will meaningfully impact the obstacles we face has to take that perspective into consideration, or your policies will be doomed to failure. In other words, as @Coriolis put it so succinctly, the issue with most Conservative policies in this area are that they are one size fits all, while people’s problems are not.
Let’s take welfare as a case in point:
As far as welfare is concerned, I want to limit benefits to those within 130% of the federally designated poverty level, basically means test welfare.
This would not apply to the disabled who would still qualify up to 200% of the poverty level.
We also need to strengthen our prosecution of fraud, and double dipping.
Reforming welfare would go a long way towards eradicating the resentment white America feels come tax time.
What you’re describing here is a fairly stereotypical example of a liberal welfare regime: it’s based on the notion of market dominance and private provision; ideally, the state only interferes to ameliorate poverty and provide for basic needs, largely on a means-tested basis. While a liberal regime seeks to ensure that the government dependency of welfare recipients does not exceed their dependency upon their ability to make commodities of their own labor, it also reinforces social stratification within the society.
No matter what kind of welfare regime you have, you’re going to impact the existing social order through the redistribution of wealth. For instance, liberal mechanisms like mean-testing draw distinctions between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. The history of the US, however, has shown that this stratification has been more directed towards maintaining racial divisions, than socio-economic ones. As I mentioned, in an earlier post, the earliest social security programs were deliberately designed in such a way that African-Americans were excluded. More recently, there have been studies that have examined state’s post 1996 welfare reform that have espoused a “get tough” attitude on welfare, indicating a correlation between low benefits in states and the percentage of that state’s population which was African-American. These analyses concluded that the correlation has nothing to do with the state’s ability to provide funding, or anti-welfare attitudes within these states, but ultimately could only be explained by hostility within the state towards African-Americans.
The welfare example spills into the larger point I am trying to make that if your true goal is your stated one, then you’re not using the right means to achieve it policy-wise. You can’t contend with poverty in a real way without contending with race just as meaningfully. History has also shown this. The Great Society programs enacted by LBJ made the elimination of poverty and racial injustice its expressed aims. These programs expanded access to benefits to aid, pouring funding into education, housing, and community action in urban ghettos. This investment in black communities was directly responsible for the rise of the black middle class, the redistribution of political power in the Deep South from local Machines to black activist, and ultimately curbing some of the worst kinds of racial discrimination and some of the most obvious racial disparities across states.
Social programs can work for us if they’re both properly funded, and speak directly to the obstacles that race creates for us, not incidentally. This is what I mean when I say that your party lacks the credibility to take on welfare reform. Talking to you and other conservatives there’s this feeling like you say the words, but you have no idea what they mean. And frankly, we don’t expect you to because you haven’t lived it. But to acknowledge racial inequality and then espouse policies like it has no practical consequence is just the height of arrogance. Then, when you put these policies that by no means incorporate the reality of the situation into place and they don’t work out, or they only make things worse, then suddenly it’s our fault. We’re the ones who are lazy or stupid or trying to “game the system”. It is absolutely infuriating.
I say all this to say again that it is in your interest as an aspiring policy maker to continue to have the kinds of conversations that you and I are having right now. You don’t always have to agree, you don’t always have to understand, but it is imperative that you at least listen. You cannot compartmentalize policy: the social has ramifications for the political, the political the economic, the economic the social and so forth. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that given your stated ends, you were not aware of the impact of the policy you prescribed. This issue on the macro level is the biggest one that Republicans faces with nonwhite voters. We assume that you’re not stupid and must recognize the consequence for the policies that you support will benefit only a privileged few, or actively do damage to a great many. There’s the natural suspicion that when you talk about freedom and agency you ain’t talking about us, or you wouldn’t support things that work so perfectly against our interests.
That is coupled with the fact that Republicans represent a very different mentality about society and how we ought to contribute to it. Namely, a history of deprivation has led minorities to be proponents of positive rights in most cases. The Conservative mindset revolves around negative ones. That again is a function of history—if you have everything (i.e., rights and access), then all you need is for someone else not to get in your way. Blacks don’t have the luxury of that point of view when formally or informally basic human dignities have been denied to us, and we’ve had to fight just to have the space to exist as ourselves. The Conservative view assumes that space is already there and will always be there unless it’s encroached upon by something external. I think that common ground can be found between the two viewpoints if the Conservative doesn’t view the expansion of positive rights for a minority to come at the expense of his or her own negative rights.
That brings me to the fundamental point that I want to make. I think the only way that society works is if everyone feels responsible for everyone else on some level. It’s not just enough to “get yours” no matter who you are. There has to be some point where we as Americans can look not just at our Constitution, but to the esprit of life, liberty and the pursuit and ask what we’ve done to insure it not only for ourselves, but for all, respectful of the individual circumstances of their lives. For a Conservative white man, that would mean understanding the rights and opportunities that contribute to that “free space” he seeks to preserve for himself through his belief in negative liberty, so that he can support the policies that would extend them to others as well. For a Liberal black woman, that means doing what I can to continue to rectify inequality as I understand it for all groups, and while supporting the policies that actively further that end also recognizing where gains have been achieved. I believe that is the sturdiest common ground for Liberals and Conservatives from which to discuss any sort of policy, but policy which touches on race in particular.
I haven't wanted to participate in this thread, since I moderated it, but it's been several days and I think it's okay now. I promise if the shit hits the fan again I'll get somebody else to moderate it.
For the record, there is a long and storied tradition of misattributing the letter F in place of TH to Will Smith in specific, and there's little doubt of its racist origins, similar to "Ah So" being attributed to Asians. People even call him Will Smiff on racist websites. I think it's commendable that the thought never occurred to many of you because your minds are unsullied by racism in any form, but IMO the cigar explanation is a little naive given the internet's history of adding Fs to Will Smith's words. Although IMO it's entirely possible that the person who created that meme DID think it was funny because of the cigar, and didn't "mean it like that" either, for the same reasons you guys didn't see it, but that the racist shit just got reused and repackaged enough times that its racist origins were no longer apparent.
Long story short- I don't think thinking it's funny or using it when your intent is to show him as a badass chomping a cigar, not to make fun of black speech patterns, makes you a racist. But denying that something you didn't even make could possibly be racist or could be derived from racism... I don't think that's necessarily a good thing.