Thursday, November 04, 2021

CRT Is Only the Most Recent Boogeyman

I just read a book called The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. I highly recommend it. I took out the audiobook using the Libby App, and listened to it while coming back and forth to work. It answered all the questions What's the Matter With Kansas did not. 

For years I've wondered why, as McGhee asks, we can't have nice things. Why can every other non-third world country provide health care for its citizens? Why do only Americans go broke via catastrophic medical emergency? Why is the deck so heavily stacked against union in this country? Why is no one able to afford end-of-life care?

It boils down to exclusion. McGhee, as one example, writes extensively about public pools, which pretty much represent why we can't have nice things. What's better than a pool on a hot day? Of course, for many Americans, a pool is good for us, but not them. What happens when civil rights appear, and all of a sudden you have to share your beautiful pool with people of color?

In some cases, communities privatized the pools so that membership could be whoever they chose. That's still going on today. In my home county, Nassau, I once took my kid and her cousins to a pool in Wantagh. They told me I'd have to buy a "Leisure Pass," and only then would I have the privilege to pay for all of us to go in. Evidently, the thousands I pay in taxes is not enough. It would be another 36 bucks, which hardly seemed worth it for one day in a pool. You'd better believe I'm not the only riffraff it effectively keeps out. (We went to our community pool in Freeport, which has no extra fee.)

Of course, a privatized pool means even if you want to pay the 36 bucks you can't get in. Some municipalities didn't bother with that. They just drained all the pools. Here's a particularly egregious example showing that everyone, regardless of color, suffers from racism.

When Donald Trump comes down an escalator blabbering about how Mexicans are rapists and murderers, he's sending a not-at-all subtle message that he won't tolerate all those foreigners, the ones who are preventing you from getting your dream low-wage gig washing dishes or cutting lawns, the one with no vacation, no sick days, no health insurance and all the other great benefits freedom bestows. In fact, the freedom to pay a sub-living wage is one of the few freedoms GOP will fight for. Of course, while we're busy scapegoating Mexicans, or African-Americans, or whoever we're hating on, we tend not to focus on that.

It's all misdirection, sleight-of-hand. Look at this. Not at that. Sure, we're cutting women's rights, but we're also making sure Willie Horton doesn't come to your neighborhood. Willie Horton was one of the most egregious uses of racism to elect a Republican in my living memory. If you don't vote for George Bush this scary Black man will come to your house and kill you and stuff.  Lee Atwater, on his death bed, apologized for that, but by then George had already started to pack the Supreme Court that, along with his other son Jeb's state, would make his ridiculous son W. President. 

Along with preventing or disallowing votes wherever possible (not to mention calling any votes that aren't for GOP fake), CRT is the new Willie Horton. If you don't make Youngkin governor of Virginia, they're gonna teach your kids CRT. The fact that no K-12 school actually teaches CRT is neither here nor there. CRT is the boogeyman of the hour, fast supplanting Black Lives Matter as the thing you can hate on while pretending not to be a racist. It worked for Youngkin, although having a bumbling opponent certainly helped too.

McGhee says we need policies that work for the sum of us, not just some of us. That's why I am so very upset that UFT has declined to support the New York Health Act. It's really awkward for unionists to stand around and say, "We have these benefits and if everyone gets health insurance, we will lose money, or have fewer benefits, or whatever the rationale is.

Instead of demanding fair benefits for everyone, we're privatizing the pool. As if that's not enough, we have an incoming mayor (one we endorsed for reasons that elude me utterly), and, while the city is awash in federal money,  Eric Adams wants to cut city worker salary by 3-5%. Of course that won't happen, because no one will agree to such a contract. Adams will, instead, scapegoat the greedy city workers who don't want to help out. You see, Adams is not concerned with the sum of us either. That's why he took six million from the charters, yet another way education, one of our few remaining public goods, is debased.

It won't take a whole lot for Adams to publicly bemoan the benefits we have, the ones he enjoyed as a cop and likely still has. Demagogues don't really have to worry about how hypocritical they are as long as they can rile up a crowd. 

It's on us to spread union, spread health care, and spread economic wellness to our community and beyond. Right now I'm very sad to rate us ineffective. We cannot, must not, endorse the very same zero-sum game that has long prevented our country from becoming what it could be.

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