Op-EdColumnistsAskia MuhammadOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Racial Resentment and Welfare Cuts

A study conducted by two California universities and released late last month in the journal Social Forces finds that opposition to welfare programs has grown among White people since 2008. White Americans are more likely to favor welfare cuts when they believe their status is threatened and that non-Whites are the main beneficiaries of safety net social programs.

Well, I could have told them that, without a fancy research study. In fact, White opposition to public education, public health care, housing — anything that benefits the needy — is rooted in racial hatred, even as they realize it causes White people to suffer in larger numbers than Blacks.

Whites have a visceral dislike for Obamacare, just on the face of it, even though they are less hostile toward the Affordable Care Act — the same legislation. And this is true, despite the fact that White folks make up 43 percent of the nation’s Medicaid recipients. Whites constitute 36 percent of food stamp recipients, and 28 percent of those receiving cash welfare. “Cut it,” White folks say, even though many more Whites will be affected than will any other group.

Even middle-class Whites hate generic Black folks, wealthy Black folks, working Black folks, educated Black folks, poor Black folks, no matter. In their minds, it’s as the old saying goes: “If you’re Black, get back.”

So-called “conservative” Whites, “fiscal conservatives” and “budget hawks” watched all their principles fly out the window when the Republican House, Senate and White House, gleefully pushed through a huge, budget-busting tax cut that will benefit primarily only the wealthiest tax payers, and generating trillions and trillions of dollars in new debt.

These Wypipo silently believe that by reducing the amount of money in the federal budget by income reductions and increased defense spending, that there will then be less money available to fund the dreaded programs they hate which benefit the “darkies.”

But I was in my barbershop recently, and one of the barbers (all are Black) was complaining about “working my tail off and barely making it, while these girls having babies and getting on welfare get better clothes, better food, and less expensive housing than I get.” That of course is an exaggeration. But some Black folks also have beefs with those who are down and out.

I believe that in principle, Booker T. Washington was correct when he advised Black folks a century ago to “pick yourselves up by your own bootstraps.” I also agree that that’s impossible for people who have no boots.

But Washington is an example of someone who practiced what he preached. As a young man, Washington walked — literally barefoot — to then Hampton Normal School (now Hampton University) where he had to literally be taught to eat with a knife and fork. He practiced what he preached and became a world renowned leader and educator, the founder of Tuskegee Institute. He achieved much and was a good role model. Washington just appeared to be an apologist for White superiority over Black people.

I believe that poor White people today need someone like Booker T. to rein in their privileged way of thinking about themselves and others, in order to realize the reality of world demographics: Americans are tiny fractions of the world’s population. Whites in the world population are a decided minority group. And within 50 years, they will be a minority group in Trump’s good ol’ “MAGA” America.

But it appears that Whites do not intend to go quietly into the night. All over Europe, as well as in this country, Wypipo are organizing and rising up in angry political mobs as it were, as though they can have the world the way it was when colonialism and White supremacy were normal. Sorry. As the group Public Enemy warned us, they “Fear the Black Planet.”

What the poor of all colors, and religions need, is more and better education, even more than they need food stamps, in my view. We need to find a way to touch each and every soul, to seek to inspire each soul to aspire toward — and indeed fight for(!) — the best education, the best diet to promote health, and livable, crime-free communities.

We don’t need a cop in every classroom to prevent mass school shootings. We need motivated Black children, attending class every day, eager to learn. Whites too can and should learn that lesson.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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