In addition to the advantages white workers gained on the job market, the evidence shows that being white gave them a significant edge when they sought public social benefits and subsidies. Clearly, as the white middle class climbed the social ladder in the postwar period, they were 102 WHITEWASHING RACE
aided by various kinds of handouts from federal bureaucrats. Indeed, the white middle class has routinely been subsidized by public social policies, regardless of whether the aid is in the form of the tangible benefits of housing and veterans’ policies in the 1950s, the extensive protection white workers received from employer-provided health and pension pro- grams, or the broadly accessible non-income-tested cash transfers. These policies not only provided a safety net; they were also instrumental to the accumulation of white wealth. At the same time, limiting the access of black families to these policies in combination with public and private disinvestment in black communities, mainly big-city ghettos, has deep- ened the racial gap in income and wealth. In sum, the advantages received by whites from job markets and the welfare state were critical to establishing patterns of accumulation for them and of disaccumulation for blacks. White Americans cannot see the advantages they gain from this arrangement. A widely accepted American belief that attributes white economic progress to individual success and black failure to government intervention hides white advantages in the U.S. welfare state. Many whites are therefore hostile to welfare and affirmative action because they believe these policies violate deeply held American values. They define their individualism in opposition to blacks who they presume do not share their middle-class values. This kind of self-concept “sustains whites’ illusions about their own independence and obscures the advan- tages they receive from federal social policies by seeing blacks’ ties to the welfare state as being based on ‘dependence’ and individual ‘failure.’” 117 Optimistic talk about America being a color-blind society may provide aid and comfort to those who mouth this tale. But it has little to do with reality. When asked how they would attack black poverty and racial inequal- ity, most whites and many blacks immediately mention education. No one seriously denies the importance of education at a time when those without a college education languish in low-wage, dead-end jobs. Yet rather than seeking to expand opportunities in higher education for blacks and Latinos, racial realists and conservatives call for eliminating preferential admissions to college and fixing a flawed system of public education with school vouchers. We now turn to the conservative cri- tique of race and education.
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- Fall '16
- O Malley, M
- Civil Rights, White people