Accusations of racism seem to have reached new levels in the past few years. These days, treating everyone with fairness and respect is no defense to the charge. A statement as seemingly innocent as "I think the most qualified person should get the job," might be deemed a racist "microaggression," while President Trump's calling out to an acquaintance at a rally "Look at my African-American over there," is repeatedly cited as a key proof of his racism. Companies, universities and a criminal justice system all bending over backwards to practice racial fairness are widely accused of systemic racism and oppression. And, if you go along with a New York Times column last week, if you are "white" you are a racial "oppressor" by virtue of your very existence, no matter what you do or say, or how hard you try to act decently to avoid the accusation.
So I thought I might contribute to the dialogue by pointing out something that, in my view, is truly racist.
Here is a new (July 27) paper from Brookings titled "Employment status changes put millions at risk of losing SNAP benefits for years." The authors are Lauren Bauer and Diane Schanzenbach. The paper addresses proposed changes to food stamp (SNAP) eligibility in the Agriculture Department bill currently making its way through Congress. The gist of the paper is that these food stamp recipients are just too much in flux and too disorganized to have to go through periodic verification of eligibility:
These new requirements would pose a challenge for millions of workers, especially those with low levels of education. . . . [W]e . . . find . . . considerable churn in the labor market across the 20 hours per week threshold, making it tenuous for people subject to the work requirements to retain their SNAP benefits. Over 16 months, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 adults 18-59, without young children at home switches between working more than 20 hours per week and some other employment status: working less tha 20 hours per week, seeking employment, or being out of the labor force.
Well, I guess that just makes it way too hard administratively to make this work fairly, let alone the people in question are clearly incapable and incompetent. Therefore they must all be continued in government dependency for the indefinite future!
Maybe to you this sounds like dry academic stuff. But make no mistake: the idea is to throw every possible roadblock in the way to make it as difficult as possible to shrink the dependent class.
So why do I say this is racist? Nothing in the article explicitly mentions race at all. But of course, although a plurality of food stamp recipients are white, nevertheless recipients are very disproportionately black. This post from 2017, with 2013 data (latest I can find) says that among food stamp recipients, 40.2% are white, 25.7% are African-American, and 12.8% gave no race. Allocating the 12.8% pro rata among the races would give about 45% white and 29% African-American. In other words, there are about two and a half times the number of African-Americans on food stamps than their proportionate share of the population.
Hey, these people have "low education levels" and their lives are in constant flux. "We" need to help "them." GW Bush called it the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Good phrase. Meanwhile, nobody who's trapped in the handout system ever gets ahead in life. Is making sure that African-Americans disproportionately don't get ahead in life the real purpose of the handout state? Sure seems that way. Anyway, whether it's the direct intent or just the obvious consequence, it's what I would call real racism.