Lying in bed last night, I got to thinking about the lack of progress under President Obama. Why is it so difficult, I wondered, to reform health care, create jobs, relieve poverty – especially among children – and improve education? What makes so many Americans fight so bitterly against programs that seem so desirable?
And then it hit me. It must be a matter of race.
I don’t have the resources or the expertise to prove it statistically, so the best I can do is repeat stuff I’ve read and heard and tell you what conclusions I’ve jumped to. You may not agree with me, but they didn’t agree with Gallileo, when he said a small cannon ball would fall at the same rate of speed as a big one, either.
I suspect that white Americans, by and large, are doing OK. Look at the health care figures: about 50 million uninsured in a nation of 300 million. Who make up that 50 million? Overwhelmingly, non-whites. Look at the unemployment figures: about 10 percent of the workforce, and again the rate is a lot higher among blacks and Hispanics than among whites. And the hungry? They’re about 50 million, too – probably the same 50 million (mostly non-white) who can’t afford, or can’t get, health insurance.
I don’t think much of American education. I wasn’t educated here, and I’m grateful that the little schooling I received wasn’t based on the American model. In Jamaica, the teachers drummed (often beat) information into our heads, but they didn’t mask knowledge with mumbo jumbo like the alchemists of old did in an effort to obscure their discoveries from the uninitiated. And that’s just what American “educators” seem to do – as I see it, anyway.
My views on American education are admittedly prejudiced. But I defy you to deny that the kids who have the most difficulty in American schools are usually African American or Hispanic. The white kids don’t seem to learn much either, but they usually manage to progress through the system and collect whatever pieces of paper they need to earn a living as adults.
In sum, white folks may not be living in clover, but they’re getting by – most of them anyway. And white folks make up about 75 percent of the American population. So it’s no wonder the president’s approval rate is slipping. While he enjoys 90 percent approval among African-Americans, his approval rating has slipped to 39 percent among whites. It’s not just the hard times that’s bugging white Americans; it’s the new president’s attempt to level the social and economic playing field.
White Americans, especially old white Americans, feel threatened. Some of the people I talk to, old white people, warn me that Obama is trying to take away my Medicare Advantage benefits so he can give poor black people health coverage. Surprisingly, they don’t usually mention the phony abortion issue. I guess that’s not what’s really bothering them. The pro-life schtick must be just an excuse politicians use for blocking health care reform. The real fear is that the haves are going to sacrifice some of their largess so the have-nots can live a little better.
And in America, nearly a century and a half after slavery was abolished, it’s the non-whites who still make up the bulk of the have-not population.