There is not much that shocks me, but my jaw bounced off the top of my desk when I read President Obama’s “society’s lottery winners”1 remark made during a discussion on poverty and class segregation. Is he trying to convince us that he is so humble he doesn’t realize he is one of those winners and has helped make segregation worse?
Yes, segregation is back. It’s in a new guise, one created by and for a liberal mindset fearful of losing its grip. Separating Americans based on color isn’t legal, of course, so segregation had to be recreated for the new century. Now it’s all about class, inequality, and people not choosing to live next to people who are different. It’s about government controlling the minds of the weak and convincing them that this is our problem, not something dictated by economics and misguided federal policies that oppress (see: Racism: Does the Worst Kind Come From Democrats?).
This is not your grandfather’s segregation
Segregation is back just in time for 2016. Mind you, this isn’t your grandfather’s segregation. It’s not supposed to be about color, though race will always be lurking in the background. This is segregation for the 21st century. It’s about having and not having.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest did his level best to explain how it works:
The President began those comments by noting that what we see in this country is a greater degree of class segregation. And what that essentially means is that people who are in the upper-income brackets live in neighborhoods where they’re surrounded by other people who are in the same income bracket and don’t come into regular contact with people who may have trouble paying the bills on a monthly basis.2
Earnest is right. Even those of us who aren’t in those upper income brackets know enough to stay away from, for example, some of the neighborhoods in the president’s hometown. We don’t want to get robbed or shot. It is grossly unfair, bordering on surreal to accuse the country of class segregation while wanton killing in some urban communities continues with abandon. That’s the part of Obama’s class segregation that no one wants to talk about. It would be great if we could live happily together with tenements butting up against million dollar homes because we all get along so well the differences don’t matter, but that kind of pipe dream only exists for the insane, the stupid, and Democrats.
What’s the rest of this grim urban reality? Ask the man bringing segregation back:
In that sense — and what used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation and this great sorting that’s taking place. Now, that creates its own politics. Right?3
Of course. Segregation had to be good for something.
Segregation is good for what??
Obama is grasping at the tatters of his legacy but this is a long shot even for him. Can he revive his class war by passing it off as segregation? He says he wants to change what Republicans believe and how the media behaves:
And so if we’re going to change how John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, we’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like, and how budgets connect to that. And that’s a hard process because that requires a much broader conversation than typically we have on the nightly news.4
So all we need to do is change the hearts and minds of everyone who disagrees with Obama. That’s not going to be an easy job, but at least there is one person the president can count on.
Michelle Obama tried to make the same argument about class segregation, to worse effect than her husband:
So today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech. And as a result, many young people in America are going to school largely with kids who look just like them. And too often, those schools aren’t equal, especially ones attended by students of color which too often lag behind, with crumbling classrooms and less experienced teachers.5
No progress, crumbling infrastructure, and inequality. That’s not segregation. It’s what happens when economic progress is stymied and traded for phony, government-supported growth, the kind we keep hearing about from the Oval Office.
Will Democrats endorse our new segregation?
Democrats have been slow to pick up on this new take on segregation. They should be. They are in large part responsible for reinforcing our perception of class differences while funding programs that keep people right where politicians want them. We’ve heard some rumblings in Congress about the new segregation, but don’t expect much willingness to engage in a thinly-veiled race war as decision time 2016 comes closer. Politicians know where their campaign money comes from. It doesn’t rain from depressed urban neighborhoods.
Despite efforts to link poverty, inequality, and urban flashpoints like Ferguson and Baltimore, the fact is that poverty has always been with us and will continue to be. There will always be people who have more than others. We have spent the last fifty years trying to find ways to spend our way out of poverty (see: A Great Society Demands Respect). It doesn’t work. Resorting to stereotypes about segregation and applying them to poverty is wrong, no matter what the motivation.
The lottery winners remark implies that people fall into wealth and don’t work for it. We’ve heard similar comments from this president like the claim “you didn’t build that.” Some people earn their riches, some don’t. Poverty isn’t all that different. Some people rise out of it. Some don’t. Some are willing to sit back and take whatever they are handed and not try any harder. Many struggle and won’t make it. As Obama said, that creates a politics all of its own. Money is not enough to fix our poverty problem and rich and poor will never join hands, but that doesn’t mean lots of cash won’t come from talking about it.