Weekend Reading

This reading was compiled on the I-95, but should not be read while driving. Read responsibly, people.

Universal free public higher education, in the short run, would provide a greater economic boost, in raw numbers, to the middle class and the rich than it would to those in poverty.

But so do libraries. So do roads. So do fire departments. So do high schools. The argument for free public higher education isn’t that it’s a targeted income redistribution program, it’s that it’s a universal, communal project, a powerful concrete statement of our values and priorities as a society.

In the United States, class is often a proxy for race. When politicians speak of the “urban poor,” we know it’s a code for black people. When they talk about “welfare queens,” we know the race of that woman driving the late-model Cadillac. In polite society, racism remains hidden behind a screen spelled CLASS.

On the extreme Right, by contrast, race is a proxy for class. Among the white supremacists, when they speak of race consciousness, defending white people, protesting for equal rights for white people, they actually don’t mean all white people. They don’t mean Wall Street bankers and lawyers, though they are pretty much entirely white and male. They don’t mean white male doctors, or lawyers, or architects, or even engineers. They don’t mean the legions of young white hipster guys, or computer geeks flocking to the Silicon Valley, or the legions of white preppies in their boat shoes and seersucker jackets “interning” at white-shoe law firms in major cities. Not at all. They mean middle-and working-class white people. Race consciousness is actually class consciousness without actually having to “see” class. “Race blindness” leads working-class people to turn right; if they did see class, they’d turn left and make common cause with different races in the same economic class.

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