Tag: social class

Not Exactly a Golden Age

So here’s a question: Are you among the half of Americans (49 percent, to be precise) who say racism is “a big problem” in society today?

I know I am.

And I also know that I would prefer to be among the 7 percent of Americans who say racism is “not a problem at all.” When referring to those people, I speak for the rest of us when I say, “I’ll have what they’re having,” because they clearly possess some serious alcohol.

Drunk-guy

The recent survey revealed that prejudice and bigotry remain societal ills, and “in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem — and majorities say that racial tensions are on the rise.”

The percentage of Americans who feel this way is higher than it was 20 years ago, when 41 percent said racism was a big problem. As recently as 2011, that percentage was down to 28 percent, suggesting a rebound effect, or perhaps racial good feelings simply plateaued a few years back.

Of course, Americans may agree that racism is worse, but as the report states, they often “disagree profoundly on who the targets and victims are.”

Ethnic minorities have historically been the objects of racial prejudice. However, white Americans often feel that they are being discriminated against, a perplexing development that, according to the report, can be traced to “simmering rage fueled by the backlash of Obama’s election, the economic struggles of lower- and middle-income whites, and demographic shifts across the country.”

Because of this, the report says, “latent racism is becoming more open, because a lot of people are feeling threatened.”

Now to be clear, most white Americans do not feel that they are the targets of racial scorn. In fact, just 43 percent of white people say racism is a huge concern.

But 64 percent of my fellow Latinos say racism is a big problem, slightly less than the 66 percent of blacks who say the same thing.

Those numbers should tell you all you need to know about how race is perceived in America.

So is there hope for the future? Well, supposedly, the Millennials were going to eliminate racism once and for all because they’re all, you know, ethnically mixed and down with diversity and come from multiracial families, and are in general far hipper than Gen X or the Baby Boomers could ever dream of being.

Um…but another recent study showed that “despite the Millennial reputation for inclusiveness, young white Americans don’t have especially multicultural friend groups.” In fact, two-thirds (68 percent) of whites age 18-34 say, “they overwhelmingly associate with other whites.”

By the way, the same is true of just 37 percent of Millennial Hispanics and 36 percent of Millennial blacks.

So this might take a while.

 


Put It on My Tab

A friend of mine once cut up her credit cards and closed her accounts because, she said, “those pieces of plastic are evil.”

creditcards

I thought this was a bit overly dramatic (she was that type of person). I also thought it was convenient to blame her chronic debt on inanimate objects rather than, say, her nonexistent self-control and materialistic tendencies.

In any case, we all know people who live beyond their means, and it’s true that many individuals teeter on the edge of bankruptcy because of their shopping addictions or love of new shoes or willingness to fly first-class to Italy for the hell of it.

But a recent study has found that when it comes to Hispanics, living large is often not the reason for going into the red. The study found that almost half (43%) of Latinos who have credit card debt depend on the plastic to pay for basic living expenses. And a significant chunk of the rest are using credit cards for tiny splurges at best.

So if Latinos are not slapping down credit cards on impulse buys and charging luxury items, why are they in so much debt?

Well, Hispanics report that the main reason for their debt is the loss of a job, and they’re more likely than other groups to say that medical costs also contributed to their financial issues.

The researchers theorize that because Latinos lost so much of their wealth in the Great Recession, they’re having trouble restocking checking or savings accounts. So putting basic items or medical expenses on credit cards often seems to be the only option.

This, of course, sucks. But as is often the case, the survey also found that Latinos are more optimistic than the overall population. So they’re more confident about paying down their credit card debt quickly.

This optimism, which borders on delusion, leads to some interesting contradictions.

For example, another poll found that almost half of Latinos (49%) said they were worried that someone in their household might become unemployed soon. Yet the same survey found that almost three-quarters of Latinos (73%) are optimistic about their finances and future opportunities.

Frankly, that’s a bizarre balancing act of fear and hope.

But maybe these results just show that Latinos are still jumpy about their financial status, years after the economic meltdown. The Great Recession so ravaged Hispanic households that many Latinos are leery about declaring that the worst is over.

At the same time, Latinos tend to be more optimistic than other groups about their future. The main reason for this positivism seems to be the immigrant mindset. Many Hispanics remember struggling in their home countries, or they hear the harrowing tales of their parents. As such, these Latinos usually have more faith in the American system and a stronger belief that their financial situation will improve.

We should all really, really hope they’re right.

 


Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.

thumbsup

Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.

 


Move Over

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in an LA neighborhood that features both apartment buildings with working-class residents and million-dollar mansions. Again, I am much closer to one end of that scale than the other (I will let you guess which).

In any case, the mixed character of my neighborhood may be doomed. According to one study, “the percentage of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods dropped to 42 percent in 2009 from 65 percent in 1970.” Basically, more people are packing up and moving to one end of the spectrum (i.e., very wealthy or very poor), and “the growing physical separation of the rich and poor is hastening the decline of middle-class neighborhoods and could make income inequality even worse.”

moving co

In essence, this is the new segregation, but along class lines rather than strict ethnic boundaries. Of course, those two concepts are strongly linked, so it’s really just racial segregation again, but not as overt and with a twenty-first-century twist.

But keep in mind that “the growing divide has been especially striking in the country’s black and Hispanic communities, where the rich and poor of each racial group are dividing from one another at a pace far quicker than in the white community.”

I suppose this means that I have to start packing.

 


Walk the Line

Let’s be clear. Nothing is funnier than Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The combination of the surreal, the obtuse, and the plain vulgar is still hilarious decades later.

mp2

The Python comedy troupe was well-known for skewering religion, social class, and other touchy subjects. But even these brilliant Brits had an Achilles’ heel. Python’s few forays into racial humor were uninspired, coming across more as juvenile than biting.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


That’s Affirmative

Twenty years ago, I had my only direct experience with racial set-asides. I won a hundred dollars in an essay contest for Hispanic teens. Of course, kids of any race could enter, but it was clearly aimed at Latinos. I can’t recall ever being part of another program that was, whether stated or implied, just for Hispanics.

As such, I’m still waiting for those affirmative action quotas that will rocket me to the top of any employer’s wish list. Supposedly, all I have to do is show up in an HR office, mention my last name, and sit back while all the qualified white candidates are shoved out windows to make way for me.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


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