Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Things that come back to haunt you: dismissing the white working class now may set the stage for dismissal of black working class later

Right now racism is so endemic to U.S. society that it's possible and probably very prudent for racial minorities to put more emphasis on their ethnic status than on their class status, but what about in the future when racial tensions will hopefully be less? I'm positive about race eventually becoming less of a problem in the United States, and yes the Obama campaign is contributing to this goal. But with a lessening of racial discrimination and more actual equal opportunities for minorities the turf may probably split once again into rich and poor, this time rich minorities and poor minorities or bourgeois minorities and working class minorities. If that happens the idea of liberal patronage being the solution to discrimination will be less likely to be a factor because social justice will challenge the status of bourgeois liberals. Right now liberals are comfortable with helping racial minorities because they don't see them as a threat to their class status.

But that can't last forever.

If liberals throw over the white working class now, saying that they don't matter at all compared to the interests of racial minorities, and progressives buy into it, they'll have established a dangerous precedent. Incorporating contempt for the working class into your philosophy based on the idea that hating the white working class is all right will set the stage for contempt for a multi-racial working class in the future.

*on edit: it's interesting to note that there are more white, male, working class folks in the United States than there are black people of all genders and income levels.

According to Census.gov:

****Note: read the whole thing, don't just stop at the numbers, because there are some real flaws here in the computation of these numbers that diminish, but don't eliminate, their accuracy****


Total U.S. population estimated at 301,621,157 as of July 1 2007. White population of the U.S 221,331,507.Total minority population of the U.S. is 80,289, 650, with the non-racial category of hispanic Americans being 44,252,278. Black popluation of the U.S.: 37,051,483. According to the Census the U.S. is 50.8% female, meaning that males make up 49.8% of the country. Applying this to the figure of white people in the United States we find that 110,223,090 people in the United States are white males. Meaning that there are 1.37 white males of all economic categories for every person who is a minority of any gender.

I should say that there are a lot of problems with who's white or not, with Latino people only being listed as a separate race when they write in a predominantly Latino country of origin for "Race". People who are of Arab descent are also labeled white by the census. Both of these means that the actual white population of the United States is smaller than the above, although I can't estimate by how much.

There's more easily accessible data for white folks of both genders in a greater diversity of occupations, though.

We find that roughly 63.2% of the 129,721,512 employed people 16 years or older in the work force have jobs that could be considered working class. I'll give the number of people but I'll have to tell you that you should really read my explanation about it and its flaws. 81,985,169 people.

I added up the estimates of numbers of people working in the following categories:

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining
Construction
Manufacturing
Wholesale trade
Retail trade
Transportation and warehousing, and utilities
Educational, health and social services

while leaving out:

Information
Finance, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing
Professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services
Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services
Other services (except public administration)
Public administration

There are obvious problems with this approach, for instance counting Educational, Health, and Social Services as being completely working class, where the truth is probably more complex, as well as including Retail Trade and Wholesale Trade in there completely. It's not clear if the numbers refer to both owners and workers or just to people working there. They probably refer to both, but there's no way to see how that breaks down. On the other side, food service workers are no doubt working class people but they're put into the same category as entertainers, people nebulously working in "accommodation", meaning possibly both hotel owners and hotel workers, recreation, which includes very highly paid people and very low paid people and people involved in the arts, which is in the same situation.

So it's a flawed measure.

I'd say that the 81,985,169 number for the white working class is too low because it doesn't include spouses who may stay at home but are eligible to vote. The number itself may be too high, but I don't know by how much it's too high. If you add up the percentages for all of the six category chart besides the management/professional category you get 66.2%, which no doubt includes a lot of folks in the Office Worker category who aren't working class. The number I got with the more complex list is 63.2%.

The point is, basically, that white working class folks have very high numbers in the United States, and so dismissing them is a very bad thing to do.

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