Guiltless White Privilege: Economic Inequality And Welfare Do Not Count As Reparations

Guiltless White Privilege: Economic Inequality And Welfare Do Not Count As Reparations

One of the more unexamined ideas gaining steam in the conservative sphere of politics is that society has paid reparations to black people to the tune of $8.3 trillion in welfare. The conclusion many conservatives take from this stretch of a statistic is that slavery and centuries of racism have been paid off, and that nothing more stands in the way of black people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Despite conservative ideology, though, economic segregation is a very real and continuing obstacle, and overt racism still exists. The frontrunner of the national Republican Party is continually making news for aggressively kicking black people out of his campaign events, and Trump’s supporters are reminiscent of segregationists jeering at and physically striking black students at newly integrated schools in the 1950s and ’60s.

Black Lives Matter has clearly found no endorsements from the Republican presidential candidates, and the Republican Party’s platform has largely forsaken the entire black demographic of America. Being so unconcerned with the black perspective, Republicans’ political efforts naturally do little to enamor black voters outside of token claims that economic growth via conservatism’s Ponzi-scheme tax cuts will generate economic security for blacks.

But even relative economic security doesn’t allow blacks to simply move wherever they want in order to escape ghettos or otherwise run-down communities, and moving into upper-class communities tends to have the effect of getting arrested for going into one’s house under suspicion of breaking and entering. Cops seem to behave more militantly and operate beyond the constraints of responsible policing in communities that electorally want to take America back to the golden age of white-washed culture.

It’s a shame that The Andy Griffith Show is laughable in comparison to today’s militarized police, who consider everyone and everything a threat, even legitimate criticism. Ironically, crime rates are falling significantly today, while throughout Andy Griffith’s 1960’s seasons the crime rates were significantly rising. Though it is difficult to believe from the violence and aggression with which police continue to react to peaceful protests.

Making things worse, black people in civically abandoned communities tend to be preyed on by their municipalities via morally outrageous ticketing schemes, which certainly makes the persisting conservative idea that Obama’s presidency ended racism rather pedantic.

I cannot recommend enough that conservatives read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me for a voice outside of their individual perspective’s echo chamber. Or, for a smaller time commitment, I believe John Oliver is the heir to Jon Stewart’s reputation as the most trusted person in news, and he frequently discusses issues in detail that should anger any citizen with a heart—not just “bleeding heart” liberals. The kind of issues that tend to disproportionately affect poor minorities.

The area in which conservatives and liberals disagree the most, however, is not whether societal problems exist. There usually is little debate that societal problems exist. It is in conservatives’ belief that segregation is not their problem. That it does not affect them much so they do not have to worry about it. Preserved segregation should be everyone’s problem, and this purposeful, guiltless inaction is the essence of white privilege: that conservatives do not think they have to care about what they can identify as actually existing problems.

Accordingly, this is why social programs are silly and stupid to conservatives. Because, if government initiatives do not directly benefit them, they do not want them, even if the programs benefit people with significantly worse lives.

Where’s the charity? As a conclusion to the chicken and egg paradox of social-political debate, the only reason government has to step in and take on such a strong role in society—against conservatives’ wishes—is because society otherwise would not look after whole groups of people marginalized for their skin color, religion, income level, etc.

And that’s exactly why the idea that the government has already paid so much money in reparations is selfish pedantry rather than a meaningful analysis of an allegedly post-racial world. A political echo chamber exists in conservatives’ willful lack of empathy, and their insistence on drawing the wrong conclusions from government’s function in society. Conservatives do not like taxes because the money is not spent on them, and conservatives believe in a social Darwinist socio-economic philosophy that advocates giving tax money not to the neediest, but those with the least need, as if a reward for one’s greediness and excess.

The reparations mentioned in the article cited in the first paragraph are ludicrous. Welfare money and affirmative action exist because society is still largely segregated. One contributing factor in this is that the minimum wage has lost the race against inflation, and that minimum wage jobs are in effect a form of neo-slavery. Walmart is the perfect example, as the Walmart stores in my end of St. Louis have workforces that are wildly, disproportionately black, and some of those workers no doubt are on food stamps and welfare because they do not make enough money to live without governmental subsidy. The dependency on government that conservatives obsess over is fueled by the economic inequality they do nothing to reverse.

Walmart, despite being a filthy rich corporation, is a huge beneficiary of corporate welfare thanks to Republican politics, as it is able to milk taxpayers through social welfare money that compensates Walmart’s employees instead of Walmart compensating its employees. Then, to add insult to injury, Walmart has the gall to spend some of its excessive profits on lobbying the government not to raise the minimum wage or cut social welfare programs because Walmart’s employees literally need it to live.

Conservatism and corporate welfare is a tag team fight because then conservatives go on to blame black people for their social and economic woes, as if personal responsibility was the only factor in their continued economic segregation. Conservatism’s moral and political apathy allows the blatant profiteering of blacks to continue enforcing the cycle of poverty that never affected predominantly white conservatives in the first place, nor ever opened their eyes to these real social ills.

Conservative ideology blindly believes in a paradox: that governmental dependency and social welfare has been terrible, have not worked, should never have been in place to begin with, and must end immediately; but that governmental dependency and social welfare have acted as reparations and have generously righted the wrongs of racism and socio-economic dependency.

Uggh. Seriously, if you have any conservative friends give them a copy of Between the World and Me.

Image via City Data

Levi Olson

Levi Olson

Senior political columnist here at Contemptor, and a political scientist proving that American conservatism is a sham. Follow me on Tumblr at or on Facebook & Twitter @theleviolson.