Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
By Bill Fletcher Jr.
As the Trayvon Martin case illustrates, we still have a hard time dealing with issues of race in this country. In the years ahead, the issue of racial injustice, coupled with economic injustice, is not likely to fade away.
The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the population will no longer be majority white. Many believe that this demographic shift will automatically bring with it a qualitative improvement in the situation for people of color.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a segment of white America that deeply fears the demographic changes and sees in them a threat to its status. Such fears lead some of these people to gravitate towards right-wing populism.
But the demographic changes are not expected to bring about any significant improvements for most people of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, according to a new study, “State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority,” by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy (available at www.faireconomy.org/dream).
If current trends continue, we will witness widening gaps in income and wealth, as well as in education and incarceration rates. The study predicts, for instance, that African-Americans will make 61 cents and Latinos will make 45 cents for every dollar whites make in terms of median family income.
Contrary to right-wing populists’ "dystopia for whites," the report paints a picture of a reconfigured Jim Crow — almost an apartheid situation of haves and have-nots.
Most whites won’t be benefiting, either. The overall living standard of most of this country, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, will continue to decline. The fates of poor and middle-class whites will be much more connected to those of people of color than to the very rich and largely white ruling elite.
The implications of this report are sobering — even frightening.
We need concerted political and economic action in the days and months and years ahead if we are to conquer our racial and economic disparities.
That means not just continuing affirmative action. It also means launching policies of redistributive justice.
Let’s face it: Those at the top have been redistributing income and wealth their way over the past three decades. If we don’t implement policies that redistribute income and wealth to the vast majority of Americans who need it, our country will become increasingly – and dangerously – divided.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime racial justice, labor and international activist and writer. He is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of ”Solidarity Divided.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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