Saturday, June 9, 2012

Race and the Social Safety Net, part II

Yesterday as I was writing about race and the social safety net, of course I thought of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum equating Medicaid recipients to "blah people."

While he claims to have substituted an "h" for the "ck" that wanted to slip out, this is perhaps the most obvious attempt to paint the picture of black people as the beneficiaries of the social safety net.

But the truth is, examples abound. I just came across another one today from right wing preacher, author, activist David Barton.
Wouldn't it be interesting to do a study between those that are on welfare and see how much and how often they read the Bible. You know, if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.
Notice the dog whistle there...the use of Booker T. Washington. Of course there has never been a white person who said something similar (?). And I'm sure that Mr. Barton has a storehouse full of quotes from black people that he uses when talking about most any subject < snark off >. But we all know that welfare is all about black people. And so we've implanted the vision of a black man in the context of remarks about it and have the "good negro" telling all those shiftless ones what they should do.

There is also the assumption that people are on welfare because they have no desire or ability for hard work. I guess its incomprehensible to him that the need for support might come from a lack of education/training, no jobs available, divorce, lack of affordable child care, or even health problems.

Finally, I'd just note that the word "welfare" has now come to represent any type of government assistance for most conservatives (including Medicare, SS, and Medicaid). That's because in 1997, what we once referred to as welfare was reformed and became Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. But after over 40 years of associating "welfare" with "black," why bother updating?


  1. One of the things I think we should be grateful for--taken in isolation--is that the President's election has helped clarify the actual meaning of a lot of the underlying discourse in this country since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. The reaction to him has been so racialized that a lot of white people who wouldn't notice it in more subtle terms have something they can understand. I am not suggesting that the hideousness of the reaction to the President's complexion will be the opening through which we will enter a lovely future as a country, free from racism.

    Rather, I remember a comment my high school US history teacher made that stuck with me, which was that there was a robust discussion about race in "mainstream" discourse in the US before the Civil War, and that the discourse's robustness had declined steadily since to the point where it was not, when I was a teenager under Reagan, actively discussed at all. All this current nonsense gives us something to talk about, which is important because this needs an active working out.

    1. Yesterday when I found the video of Tim Wise that I posted below, it was because initially I found this one.

      Take a look at what Van Jones says 56 seconds into the clip. He first says something we've talked about before - "We're more afraid of power than anyone I know." Then he gives us this line (which I LOVE): "They're not acting this way because we suck. They're not acting this way because we're not powerful. They're acting this way because WE ARE."

  2. Thanks SP,
    This post made my day in so many ways! Im so sick of the dog whistles, the effort to bring religion into everything, the need to judge exactly what kind of love is "acceptable"! The BS that makes no distinction between education and wisdom! The lack of empathy! The loathsome, flagrant racism to "Obama" not even stooping to address the President of the United States properly!

    What are we becoming? This feels less and less like a democracy so many people all over the world have died to secure and more like a giant pity party where some people have more money than the others. I feel sick!.

  3. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.

    Que? I have absolutely no proof whatsoever of my assertion, but in the meantime I'll just assume it's true because it might be?

    And what's with this 'reading the Bible makes you work harder' rubbish? Did I miss a memo from Paul to Timothy?

    'Dear T, forgot to mention earlier, scripture is also useful for teaching people to work harder and not live on welfare. It's called the Protestant Work Ethic. No, I don't know what a Protestant is either, I'm just passing it on. Keep drinking that wine! Lots of love, P.'

  4. Barton should've read what Fredrick Douglas had to say about all that praying people were fond of. I'd like to know how many members of his flock are wealthy since reading the bible makes them so industrious? These preachers have done a number on their listeners.