Lessons about White Privilege, Social Liberal Backlash, and Trump 2.0

Alert reader DK tossed a PDF of the following new study over the transom: Erin Cooley, Jazmin L. Brown-Iannuzzi, Ryan F. Lei, and William Cipolli, III, “Complex Intersections of Race and Class: Among Social Liberals, Learning About White Privilege Reduces Sympathy, Increases Blame, and Decreases External Attributions for White People Struggling With Poverty, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The abstract:

White privilege lessons are sometimes used to increase awareness of racism. However, little research has investigated the consequences of these lessons. Across 2 studies (N = 1,189), we hypothesized that White privilege lessons may both highlight structural privilege based on race, and simultaneously decrease sympathy for other challenges some White people endure (e.g., poverty)—especially among social liberals who may be particularly receptive to structural explanations of inequality. Indeed, both studies revealed that while social liberals were overall more sympathetic to poor people than social conservatives, reading about White privilege decreased their sympathy for a poor White (vs. Black) person. Moreover, these shifts in sympathy were associated with greater punishment/blame and fewer external attributions for a poor White person’s plight. We conclude that, among social liberals, White privilege lessons may increase beliefs that poor White people have failed to take advantage of their racial privilege—leading to negative social evaluations.

If you think about this for a moment, you can see implications of “these shifts of sympathy” for a Democrat Party whose elites and apparatchiks were mostly white, likely to have had “lessons” (literally lessons, so the paper is limited in scope) in white privilege, and who are liberals (but — categorizing crudely — social liberals, like Clinton, etc., and not economic liberals, like Sanders or Warren. Because the authors don’t have the 2020 primaries in mind, they don’t hammer that distinction home as much as they might). In this brief post, I’ll first describe Cooley et al.’s paper as best I can — I do think the abstract, above, communicates the bottom line — and then I’ll speculate freely on those implications. I wish I could write a rigorous post, but I feel it’s important to get this paper “out there” in short order.

First, the paper; N = 1,189, so at least it passes our first hurdle. Most of the sociological jargon is above my pay grade, and so all I can do is my best. I’m also limited in the number of words I can quote, so I can’t give much detail. (If any readers want to dig into the methodology, I can email a PDF of the study). From the paper, here are the two studies (citations omitted). In the first study, there are two parts to look for: The “lesson” part, and the “sympathy” part. Here is the lesson part:

After completing the informed consent, participants were told they would complete two (ostensibly) unrelated studies. The first study was described as a brief reading and thought exercise. Participants read the following:

In America, there is a long history of White people having more power than other racial groups (e.g., Black people). Although many people think of racial inequality as decreasing, there are still privileges that are experienced by White Americans that are not true for other racial groups. For example, in her essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” Peggy McIntosh, PhD, lists different privileges that she experiences as a White person living in America.

Next, participants read four privileges taken from Peggy McIntosh’s (1988) work: “I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time;” “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented;” “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group;” and “I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.”

Participants then were asked to list two privileges that White people experience in America. After this exercise, participants were directed to what was described as the second study.

(Outis Philalithopoulos discussed McIntosh and her canonical yet slippery knapsack metaphor at NC in 2018.) That was the lesson part. Now comes the sympathy part. Still from the paper:

In the second study, participants learned that the researchers were developing a magazine column that would provide brief glimpses into the lives of regular people living in New York City. Participants learned they would read one randomly selected “snapshot” of a person living in NYC and would be asked to report their reactions to this person. All participants then read the following about a man named Kevin. Critically, participants were randomly assigned to learn that Kevin was either White or Black:

Kevin, a White [Black] American living in New York City, would say his life has been defined by poverty. As a child, Kevin was raised by a single mom who struggled to balance several part-time jobs simply to pay the bills. Most winters, they had no heat; and, it was a daily question whether they would have enough to eat. In late 2016, Kevin began to receive welfare assistance. Since then, he has not applied for any jobs and instead has cycled between jail cells, shelters, emergency rooms and the streets. Although Kevin would like to be financially independent, he doesn’t feel he has the skills or ability to obtain a well-paying job.

The second study has the same structure as the first, with an additional control:

[W]e aimed to replicate and extend Study 1 findings. Critically, in Study 2 we added in a control condition in which participants did not read about White privilege. Among those in the White privilege condition, we expected to replicate Study 1 findings. In contrast, in the control condition, we expected social liberals to express more sympathy for a struggling, poor person regardless of race. Such a finding would be consistent with research linking social liberalism to greater motivations for empathy…. Together these results would indicate that backlash toward poor White people in Study 1 are caused by reading about White privilege rather than a general predisposition of socially liberal people to sympathize more with Black versus White people.

(Spoiler: This proved to the case.) Participants were also scaled on the Voigt-Kampff the author’s 7-point social political ideology scale, so they could be sorted for social liberalism vs. economic liberalism. Skipping methodology entirely — again, above my paygrade, but I did search on the names of the authors to see if they appeared in any tendentious online contexts, and they did not — we arrive at the main conclusions:

Across two highly powered studies, we find that learning about privilege based on race may sometimes lead to reduced sympathy for White people experiencing poverty. In particular, social liberals, who tend to explain inequality through systems of oppression… may be particularly receptive to thinking about systematic privileges experienced by White people [while economic liberals are not[0]]… As a result, social liberals who think about White privilege (vs. control) may become more likely to blame poor White people for their poverty. However, we should also note that learning about White privilege did not make liberals feel less sympathetic toward poor Whites than conservatives, but rather less sympathetic than they may have otherwise been….

One plausible interpretation of these findings (given that our samples were composed of mostly White people) is that White people, may feel negatively toward poor White people, as opposed to rich White people, because they negatively represent the in-group… Indeed, recent research indicates that poor White people can be ostracized by other White people….

Similarly, the status incongruity hypothesis, contends that people who are counterstereotypical of their race or gender—especially in terms of status expectations—are likely to experience backlash due to system justification motivations…. Thus, it is possible that lessons about White privilege make low status White people seem particularly incongruous with status stereotypes of their race driving the observed backlash toward poor White people[1]. Future research could directly manipulate status to examine whether the current pattern of findings is restricted to low (but not high) status White people.[2]

So, that’s the paper. Now to work through the implications, assuming the paper is correct, immediately repeating the caveat that I’m speculating. First, let me simply and perhaps brutally reframe the terms: For Cooley et al.’s “poor,” I would say “working class,” and for purposes of this post, for Cooley et al.’s “social liberal,” I would say “member of the socially liberal Democrat nomenklatura” (at the high end, an opinion shaper, thought leader, elected, or bundler; at the low end, a canvasser or precinct captain). I’m also going to label the phenomenon discovered by Cooler et al. “social liberal backlash”[3] So a few points.

First, one nice thing about Cooley et al.’s paper is that the idea of social liberal backlash can give an account of material like the following, produced after the Case-Deaton studies and election 2017. “On mocking dying working class white people“:

I’m just going to cut and paste comments from this story at the Huffington Post on white working class people dying of despair. Keep in mind, the suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse is causing deaths at the level of the AIDS epidemic at its height. This sentiment is common, I just picked comments from one thread on one article.

“Sorry, not sorry. These people are not worthy of any sympathy. They have run around for decades bitching about poor minorities not “working hard enough,” or that their situation is “their own fault.” Well guess what? It’s not so great when it’s you now, is it? Bunch of deplorables, and if they die quicker than the rest of us that just means the country will be better off in the long run.”

Not much sympathy there, eh? (It also seems reasonable to assume that Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” in the quote, fits into the social liberal backlash frame.)

However, we recall that Cooley et al.’s results derive not from a simplistic readout of sympathy from race (or class), but from the admixture of a lesson. So we ask ourselves: Have member of the socially liberal Democrat nomenklatura been given lessons in white supremacy? And the answer is yes (as one might expect; the Democrat party base is credentialled professionals, and race is an important topic, so naturally they would take lessons, one professional to another[4]). For example, from Politico:

“Intersectionality feels obvious to younger progressives in the way that LGBTQ rights do,” said Amanda Litman, co-founder and executive director of [the Clinton-adjacent] Run For Something, which recruited thousands of young progressives to run for local and state office in the aftermath of the 2016 election.

Many progressive grass-roots organizations are instituting new training and programs to improve their approach to race. Indivisible, the largest “resistance” group of the Trump era, recently held its first mandatory virtual training; more than 300 group leaders across the country tuned in. The topic: “Direct Voter Contact through a Racial Equity Lens.”

Before I conclude, I should say that yes, racism is real and evil, and yes, white supremacy is vile and degrading. However, if the hypothesis of social liberal backlash is correct, the lessons[5] for liberal Democrat nomenklatura on those topics may well have put a ceiling on their capability to win votes. (Remember that the country will be majority white until 2044, which is a lot time to wait for Ruy Reixeira’s “coalition of the ascendant” to do its demographic work.) If those well-meaning, well-trained social liberal Indivisible volunteers knock on white working class doors, and in their hearts is the thought that “if they die quicker than the rest of us that just means the country will be better off in the long run,” it’s hard to see how their canvassing will be as effective as it might otherwise have been. Social liberal backlash would also give an account of the vehement rejection of the injuries of class, and its trivialization, stigmatization, and individualization as “economic anxiety” by Democrat wonks. Dollying back to the larger conditions of social policy, it’s also possible that social liberal backlash can give an account of the otherwise curious indifference of the Democrat leadership — who employ lesson-having staff, at the very least — to tens of thousands of excess deaths of despair, yearly, in the white working class. And if liberal Democrats don’t — or can’t — think those deaths are an issue, somebody else will. Hopefully not Trump 2.0.


[0] “Importantly, and consistent with our hypotheses, the results indicate that 1) our reported models do not replicate when we look at economic (rather than social) political ideology as a moderator and 2) our reported models remain un- changed when we control for economic political ideology.”

[1] No, not “reverse racism.” They write: “Importantly, although our data find that learning about White privilege can decrease social liberals’ sympathy for a White person suffering from poverty, we think it is important to emphasize that these data cannot, and do not, speak to perceived racism toward White people (i.e., reverse racism claims). ”

[2] Gotta have that “future research” line!

[3] “Social justice liberal backlash” would be way too charged for an already charged discussion; and in any case I would bet that “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” Democrats are part of the backlash.

[4] Yes, “naturally” is doing a lot of work, there. The Democrat Party is embedded in (or includes, depending on how you define a political party (which nobody has really been able to do))) a dense network of NGOs, sometimes called the non-profit industrial complex (see also), many of whom provide training in topics such as white supremacy. That’s one way the Democrats decapitate social movements. This footnote should really be a whole post, but a footnote will have to do for now.

[5] If the social liberal backlash hypothesis is true, redesign the curriculum.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Politics, Social values on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Synoia

    White Privileged on seeing the poor, or homeless:

    Blacks: “How Dreadful, poor things, we need to help

    Whites: “Idle Shirkers, they should learn to Code!”

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      White Privileged on seeing the poor, or homeless:

      Blacks: “How Dreadful, poor things, I hope they take comfort in knowing I voted for Obama”

      Fixed it for you.

      This assumes the “woke” types don’t actually interact with actual poor people.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Again, read the post. This isn’t the Twitter, where easy riffs that disappear in a minute are fine. These are serious issues.

        Race is not the relevant axis of comparison in the study or the post, jfc.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, for “social liberal” one might read “woke”… I don’t’ think I’d call Sanders or Warren “woke,” thank The God(dess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I wouldn’t call them “woke.” Warren might bumble due to living in Eastern Taxachusetts which has its own set of problems.

          Based on my campaign experience, the “Woke” were so attached to the idea of “moderate suburban Republicans” for a reason. I must admit it was always fun to watch a local Democratic committee member squirm when asking them to canvass a neighborhood where everyone looks like Jay-Z.

          Mighty white of you” springs to mind whenever I hear the “woke.”

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Maybe people could learn how to weaponize and disseminate the phrase ” Mighty woke of you” for the proper circumstances.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Feel free to use that phrase wherever you deem suitable. I hope everyone who likes that phrase feels free to experiment with how to weaponize it and disseminate its various experimentally-weaponized versions to see which one self-viralizes farthest and fastest and deepest.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Precisely not the point. Read the post. It’s not that long. More like:

      Economic liberals: “How Dreadful, poor things, we need to help”

      Social liberals: “Idle Shirkers, they should learn to Code!”

      1. scoff

        It irks me beyond words when I hear someone say, “the poor you will always have with you.” For me, social and economic justice demand that I reject that attitude.

        Wealth privilege benefits in the same way that white privilege does, unfairly and without regard for the intrinsic value of the individual.

      2. remmer

        Yes, exactly. Thanks, Lambert, to you and DK for this. And good for Lei and Cipolli. I wonder what their white, social-liberal colleagues in the Sociology department thought about their research. iirc, Case and Deaton said their colleagues weren’t happy weren’t very happy with them.

    3. dk

      Yup, even exactly that:

      “Anyone who can code or who can design has 0% chance of homelessness in the U.S.”

      What’s most cringing about this is that some of the people that say things like this write apps that are released into the consumer environment. The apps that scrape and leak info, lag on general security, etc.

      1. skippy

        Strangely … or not … in the dim early days of NC there was a bit of a scrap involving some Libertarian econ / neoliberal sorts, that plainly stated, after a bit of rhetorical PR deception IMO, that the grand plan was to use mega data and code to administrate society to its ideological ends.

        No force was involved, all went willingly … chortle …

        Aside I find “white privilege” more accurately stated as the “superior investor race” due to various views about ethnicities cultural dispositions when “investing”.

  2. Partyless Poster

    This assumes that the person being educated is white and middle class, but what really has an effect is when a poor white person is told about white privilege.
    I’m a white middle aged male and was unemployed for about 5 years some years back.
    When your so frustrated and poor that your considering suicide and some well to do college kid goes on about white privilege, the result isn’t lack of empathy but rage.
    Poor whites justifiably get a little pissed off when told how privileged they are especially when the person telling them that almost always is college educated middle class.
    Its easy to see how Trump is a reaction to this.

    1. jrs

      +1000 familyblog that stupid college kid!

      Longest I’ve been unemployed is about a year and toward the end there was already not a day I didn’t think about if dying was just a better way out.

      For me it’s not even that I was homeless or starving yet (and I know, count my blessings, and I do, but it wasn’t enough to go on). I was tired of the endless demoralizing process of job seeking ITSELF, the trying to be absolutely out of this world perfect on yet another interview so as to get work, and still the endless “No”. The process itself and the uncertainty about the future were so bad, I was tired of living if that’s all it consisted of, that seemingly futile process and waiting around to die, and I saw no way out.

      1. Pelham

        My sympathies. In a milder and shorter-term form, I’ve been through the same thing.

        What helped me, though, was mounting rage at the situation, which was quite clearly not my fault. Rage kept me going. And that’s why I voted for Trump, even though I’m a dedicated, lifelong leftist. And I’m fully prepared to do it again if the Democrats nominate anyone other than Sanders, Warren or Gabbard.

        Perhaps we voters need to collectively resolve to do the same thing. The Dem candidates are sworn to support anyone the party ultimately nominates. But voters aren’t. If we mount a highly visible and organized effort to swear off all so-called Dem centrists and positively vote for Trump (excluding even third-party alternatives), maybe those with real leverage will get the message.

        1. Anon

          Do you really think voting for Trump has improved your (and the Nations) prospects for the future?

          I agree with you that the Dem. Party is an incorrigible mess, but if you care about women’s health, social harmony (of even the mildest sort), the environment, or the potential for nuclear war then a vote for Trump only encourages government resources being used against your personal interests.

          Venezuela is an object lesson in the danger that is D. Trump.

          We all need to think “outside the box” and proclaim the society we would like to live in and encourage political representatives that will help us attain that society; or take to the streets to get it. (And push to eliminate the Electoral College as it distorts the will of ALL the people.)

          1. Steve

            I didn’t vote for him but honestly, yes. My life is way better than it was in 2016 economically. I have money in the bank for the first time in my life and hope for the future. My black friends seem to be doing fine as well.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                Voter shaming always works. I recommend that liberal Democrats intensify it, if possible.

                Adding, a functional Democrat Party would be taking a message like, say, “It’s not that bad out there” and working out how to counter it, as opposed to pulling out the Stupid Gun and shooting the messenger with it. But you fight a campaign with the party you have….

                1. Anon

                  Asking a question is voter shaming? Or are you actually responding to my previous comment?

                  My point (in the previous comment) is that one has to be able to distinguish from bad choices. Just because the US has devolved into a succession of them doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to choose them.

                  Define the elements that are important/impactful to yourself and the society you want to live in and make THAT political choice; and work with those that share your interests/needs. Otherwise, the decision WILL be made in the streets by authoritarians, where it gets ugly.

                  1. Lambert Strether Post author

                    > Asking a question is voter shaming? Or are you actually responding to my previous comment?

                    “Oh, My!” is, grammatically, an interjection, signaled by the exclamation point. It is not a question. In this case, it expresses astonishment at the stupidity of your interloctutor (a common liberal trope). So, yes, you’re voter shaming. Actually.

                    Pro tip: If you plan to restate the plain meaning of your own words, don’t do so in a comment adjacent to the words you want to distort. Make the reader scroll. No thanks necessary!

          2. Pelham

            You’re right. Trump is a disaster. But he’s a known evil.

            The Dems, I’m afraid, set themselves up as somehow beneficent, and that’s what sets me off. These centrists are — and have been for a long time — selling us all out. I refuse to reward them, even if I have to vote against my own immediate interests. Collectively as well, it may be that voting to sink the country into deeper misery may eventually build enough sentiment to overhaul the entire system.

            But with an organized voter appeal that says to the Dems that centrists are unacceptable to a large enough section of the voting population, we may be able to avoid the worst and clear the way for a real Democrat to capture the nomination.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > with an organized voter appeal

              That’s why we have primaries, even if the Democrat establishment is trying to get people to sign a new loyalty oath to avoid division over policy.

          3. drumlin woodchuckles

            Trump’s election was a mighty tire iron of “wake-up call” swung into the grinning teeth of the Catfood Democrat Establishment. It might be a first step to exterminating the Catfood Democrat Establishment and conquering and repurposing all its emptied-out fortresses and ammo dumps.

            1. Anon

              Wow! These sentiments that Trump has made life better and is the authoritarian we need to get political change is frightening. Political naivete’ is bounding across the nation. I would have thought that the genial liar Obama would have been a vaccine against the disease that is the ignorant, bellicose, liar Trump.

              Immediate economic performance (and a paycheck) has little to do with the executive actions of Trump. And Trump is not setting the stage for a political Enlightenment; quite the opposite. The Republicans have become serfs to Trump and the Democrats have been deaf to the experience of the proles.

              Take to the streets with your favorite candidate; who can work to benefit YOU and a better society. And hold their feet to fire year after year after year.

              1. Massinissa

                You are entirely misunderstanding the arguments of the three people above, unless you’re deliberately misrepresenting them.

                It almost verges on concern-trolling.

              2. Lambert Strether Post author

                When you write:

                These sentiments that Trump… is the authoritarian we need to get political change is frightening.

                in response to:

                Trump’s election was a mighty tire iron of “wake-up call” swung into the grinning teeth of the Catfood Democrat Establishment.

                It’s very hard for me to believe that you’re actually reading the comments. Obviously, the comment to which you are ostensibly responding has nothing to do with authoritarianism.

                1. Anon

                  Rage kept me going. And that’s why I voted for Trump, even though I’m a dedicated, lifelong leftist.

                  The above is the remark that initiated this: “Political naivete’ is bounding across the nation.”

                  To vote for someone who is a known authoritarian (on display at his political rallies) and now directing federal agencies to diminish women’s health, diminish environmental protection, and generally set back social progress for years, is not helpful to other “leftists”.

                  The US is in this tough political era because we live in a culture that celebates ME over WE; I’d rather go shopping than view a local council meeting; and “I’ve got no dog in that fight” (Iraq).

                  Yes, the elites are comfortably in control politically. But that can change, if we want it to. But not by making politically naive choices.

                  1. Big River Bandido

                    Stop. Please stop. Your comments in this thread are completely off-point. Not to mention just plain stupid.

          4. Lambert Strether Post author

            Thank you for the enforcement. With an admixture of “to the streets” — what a recipe for ineffectuality! — this is indeed the liberal line of:

            1) LOTE


            2) The current push for EC reform. (Fine in principle, but not as a substitute for self-examination by the party establishment, which is what it is, and all that it is.)

            1. Anon

              I assume the above comment is directed at Anon.

              In aggregate, my comments do not encourage Lesser of Two Evil voting. Just the opposite! “We all need to think “outside the box” and proclaim the society we would like to live in and encourage political representatives that will help us attain that society;” This requires listening to ALL the candidates and choosing one (and supporting) that agrees with your specific needs; even if it’s Tulsi Gabbard and not Joe Biden.

              Lambert, we agree on the self-serving, useless leadership of the democratic party. It is only going to be reformed by newly elected representatives. That’s you and me helping candidates at the local level. But, first, Congressional level gerrrymandering needs to be stopped. The Electoral College is nothing more than institutional (Constitutional) gerrymandering; it is what allowed Trump to win by simply convincing an additional 77,000 voters in three states (whose combined population is less than California).

              1. Anon


                With an admixture of “to the streets” — what a recipe for ineffectuality!

                Been watching what’s going on in France?

              2. Lambert Strether Post author

                This is an awkward combination of liberal Democrat talking points and putatively left rhetoric. The talk is about “to the streets” (see, e.g., the Iraq War protests) but the walk is current-issue boilerplate. We have Democrats centering a structural, Constitutional-level change that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening*, very much opposed to fighting and winning elections on the existing terrain, which they could do if they were willing to make the case in rural areas and the Rust Belt**. But liberal Democrats would rather die as a party than make a policy-based appeal to flip those 77,000 voters, and are busily attempting to crippled the candidate(s) who could (and have).

                Also, as far as “you and me,” I’ll let you know when allyship is appropriate, thank you very much.

                NOTE * Absent Civil War, which the Democrat professional base is equipped neither to fight nor win. The revolution is not brunch.

                NOTE ** Deindustrialized collaboratively by both parties, very much including today’s dominant factions.

          5. drumlin woodchuckles

            Trump was the only tire iron available to millions of disaffected people to beat the Clintonite Sh*tobamacrat Elite with.

            By electing Trump, we have swung the Tire Iron of Justice into the Grinning Teeth of the Catfood Democrat Elite. We have destabilized and confused the Clintonite Sh*tobamacrats just enough to create an opening for the FDDs ( the Four Decent Democrats) to begin squeezing through.

            If all the FDD supporters hang tough to the bitter end, and then past the bitter end, we may get closer to exterminating the Catfood Democrat Faction from existence and we may be able to wipe the Catfood Democrats off the face of the earth. Then we can finally have a Real Democrat Party to use for conquering every level of government step by step and then crushing and destroying the people who get in the way of our having nice things.

            And then we can have nice things.

    2. aj

      Trump and the resurgence of “proud boys” type groups is a direct response to this. They see establishment, middle-class African Americans pushing for reparations and are told they don’t get any help because they have all this “white privilege.” They problem is when they don’t see themselves as being privileged because they are poor they feel attacked. White privilege probably means they are less likely to go to jail, but it doesn’t exactly put food on the table.

      IMHO this is what people like Bernie get that others miss. I know he gets flack for sticking to class and gets accused of ignoring race, but poor white and black folks have a lot more in common than rich folks vs poor folks of the same color.

      1. jrs

        Well in the study even liberals with “white privilege” lessons had more sympathy than conservatives. And that for the most part (with a few issues as the exception) is how Trump has governed, poor get screwed over even more. Very little is gained by going Republican/conservative, they don’t care.

        Of course whether the rich people in government, being rich and thus likely to lack empathy, can have empathy in general is anyone’s guess and hope.

        Maybe poor white and poor black folks have more in common, do you know this personally? I mean poverty sucks regardless but that’s too broad to just say they have more issues in common (mind you a common issues focused movement like the poor people’s movement is great).

      2. marym

        Historically, at least after it went unaddressed during the Reconstruction era, it doesn’t seem that there’s ever been a wide-spread push for reparations. Not saying it’s never proposed, or that some policy proposals don’t include some specialized benefit, or that in very recent days a few opportunistic politicians (who seem to think M4A or GND are impossible dreams) are suddenly suggesting it.

        However, both grassroots activism and the more establishment-oriented civil rights organizations have mostly focused on all kinds of other issues, argued in terms of equality or universal rights and benefits.

        Yet on the “proud boys” side side of the argument, there seems to be an objection to expanding universal benefits or protecting universal rights if the “other” will be, along with themselves, among the beneficiaries.

        I agree there’s a valid critique of white liberal dismissal of white working class economic grievances, both as a political strategy and as a strategy for justice. But where’s the advocacy and organizing for universal rights and benefits among the white working class?

        Privileged white liberals who have what they experience as a class interest in the economic status quo aren’t going to do it. Some elements of the struggling left like DSA and the Sanders movement are moving in that direction.

        In the meantime, to the extent that the economically disadvantaged white working class sees the solution as elimination rather than solidarity, imo that’s at least as great an impediment to progress and justice as the occasional argument in favor of reparations.

        1. Seamus Padraig

          Yet on the “proud boys” side … of the argument, there seems to be an objection to expanding universal benefits or protecting universal rights if the “other” will be, along with themselves, among the beneficiaries.

          You’re obviously more of an expert on Proud Boys than I am. I was completely unaware, for example, that they had any official positions on economics or social spending at all. If they’re like your typical hard-line libertarian/conservative types, they’re probably opposed to government spending for everybody across the board … but I don’t know; I’m just guessing. As far as I know, Proud Boys are just a knuckle-dragger group that does stuff like defend conservative speakers from Antifa attacks on college campuses and things like that. I never knew they were a full-blown political party.

          But where’s the advocacy and organizing for universal rights and benefits among the white working class?

          Advocacy and organizing takes money, which is something in short supply if you’re unemployed and slowly dying of a oxycodone addiction.

          In the meantime, to the extent that the economically disadvantaged white working class sees the solution as elimination rather than solidarity …

          Elimination? Good God! What do you mean by that? Mass-killing or something? I don’t personally any white, working-class people proposing that. Where did you hear this?

          1. marym

            The reference to “proud boys” was in response to the original comment – short hand presumably for current forms of white supremacist, white nationalist expressions of grievance.

            I was comparing a relative lack of grass roots organizing and advocacy in today’s white working class world compared to other oppressed and disadvantaged segments of the population; and most particularly looking for organizing and advocacy committed to equal rights.

            Elimination: Support for policies including numerous forms of disenfranchisement, inequities in criminal justice and incarceration policies, refusal or penalization of asylum seekers, harsh deportation decisions, travel bans based on religion, impunity of cops killing unarmed people, ending or further restricting public programs perceived to serve the Other.

            There have always been tons of community, church, and issue oriented groups fighting on numerous fronts in the black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ communities, not exclusively people with money or free from addictions and other disabilities. Maybe I surf the wrong blogs and segments of twitter and I’m missing something comparable in today’s white working class world. Teacher strikes, Fight for $15, and young people protesting gun violence are a diverse population, so that’s an important factor. But to the extent that Trump supporters cheer and vote for eliminationist policies, and are more likely to blame unions than organize them or demand universal material benefits from their politicians, they are, as I said, an impediment to progress.

            It can’t only be a requirement for liberals and the more identity-oriented factions on the left to raise their own class consciousness and reach out – Trump supporters need to bring some home-grown class consciousness of their own to the table.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > where’s the advocacy and organizing for universal rights and benefits among the white working class?

          The difficulty here is that if you want the “white working class” to organize as white, then the only place to go is the “Proud Boys” and their ilk. And read Bowling Alone….

          1. marym

            I want the same thing we want from others, to organize for a universal material benefit or universal right, even if they, like others, choose an issue that impacts them particularly; not react to such organizing by others as a threat. If they see universal healthcare or unions or voting rights or not being killed by cops as a threat, and vote for politicians who oppose those things, they’re protecting some perceived privilege. Whether or not they’re actually deluded about the privilege, they don’t also get to be offended at the notion of white privilege.

              1. marym

                I want them to organize as people who demand concrete, universal, material benefits, just the same as I want from other economic and social justice advocates.

                For example, I’d want them to take their tiki torches to DC instead of Charlottesville, and demand treatment clinics and disability support for opioid victims, and recompense from the drug companies. Or to attend Trump’s hate rallies demanding the infrastructure and better-than-ACA healthcare he ran on. Or to demand tuition-free public colleges and trade schools in their “red states” because it will help their own kids without opposing it because some black or brown kids may also benefit.

                1. Lambert Strether Post author

                  > I’d want them to take their tiki torches to DC


                  (a) you do want “them” to organize “as white”. I think that’s a recipe for disaster, for a permanent setting of [x] __ against {x]___ for as many combinations of [x]’s as there are, and creating a sitting duck for Trump 2.0, and

                  (b) all white people (“their”) carry Tiki torches. Really? I’m sure you’d want to walk that back on consideration, but that is the plain meaning of the comment.

                  I asked, because for a long time “white” was regarded as “the default setting.” Hence, “they” did “their” organizing in through institutions that were putatively universal. For example, DSA, and sadly, is universal in its mission but heavily white (and downwardly mobile professional). This is bad because the working class is diverse, and hence organizations whose membership is diverse is a necessary condition for working class power (and not organizations sintered together from a bunch of vertical [x]-based NGOs on notions of allyship rather than solidarity). Surely you’re not advocating a DWSA. But if not, what are you advocating?

                  1. marym

                    (a) (While I try to figure out if I’m either very wrong, or just very inarticulate):

                    The original comment in the thread blamed Trump and the proud boys on the reparations-demanders. Reparations aren’t a big feature of black organizing. White supremacy, misogyny, homophobia are a big feature of Trump’s agenda (as reflected in his speeches, policies, and appointments), have long been a big feature of the Republican agenda, and haven’t lost Trump any percentage points of approval so far. So the relative fairness of taking proud boys or reparationists as proxy for anything larger is at least debatable.

                    I was looking for Trump supporters who are in a position to organize doing so around the non-racist reasons they voted for him – addiction, healthcare, jobs, infrastructure. If they’re living, working, suffering, and socializing among mostly white people, they may be organizing white people, not organizing “as white.” If so then, like people organizing mostly among black people or immigrants or Muslims, they should be subject to the same critique of needing to build class alliances for universal justice across identities if they’re not already approaching their issues in that way.

                    I’d also like them to stop voting for other politicians who explicitly don’t want any of the non-racist things for which Trump supporters voted, only the racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, guns part; or at least make some demands of those politicians to ameliorate that agenda. This is comparable to wanting liberals to stop voting for politicians who don’t want that stuff either, just the identity politics, means testing, crumb dropping part; or at least make some demands for some universal benefits.

                    (b) “them” with the tiki torches was meant to be “those who donned their white polos and khakis and went to Charlottesville with tiki torches.” I had that more specific but more wordy version of the comment but edited it down.

            1. Darthbobber

              But there are numerous organizations containing a honky majority advocating many of the things you desire.

              1. marym

                I was still addressing the issue raised in the comment at the start of the thread: resentful white working class people who (rightfully on many issues) don’t consider themselves privileged, and who, rather than join issue-oriented advocacy organizations, decide to be “proud boys” – which is itself demand for privilege, not equality or universal benefits.

                1. Darthbobber

                  But there might be all of a couple of thousand actual proud boys in this nation of 350 million people. That tiny sliver is hardly what needs explaining.

                2. Lambert Strether Post author

                  > white working class people who (rightfully on many issues) don’t consider themselves privileged, and who, rather than join issue-oriented advocacy organizations

                  In Maine, the group fighting the landfill that I was involved in was a combination of professionals, weirdly employed downwardly mobile professionals, and working class. They were all white, and the common thread among the leadership was that they (and their property) were all personally affected by the landfill, and so were incentivized to become subject matter experts and activists. I would bet other environmental groups (anti-pipeline activists, for example) exhibit a similar class mix (depending on location). I would need data from Virginia anti-pipeline or West Virginia mountaintop removal activism to know if there’s a racial mix as well as a class mix; I’m guessing yes. (Anti-foreclosure activism, back in the day, exhibited both.)

                  If we look at health care activism and ask ourselves “Why doesn’t the white working class join an issue-oriented group like PNHP?” the answers that occur are:

                  1) They do. It’s called the National Nurses Union, and the NNU is racially diverse

                  2) Organizations like PNHP are run by professionals and organized by them. That may make them uncomfortable for working class people, they may not in places and at times that take working class requirements into account, etc.

                  3) Working people value their time; it is, after all, what they are paid for. They may perceive the “non-profit industrial complex” as being time-wasting; and with rare exceptions like PNHP, it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.

                  I think taking the tiki-bearing Proud Boys as proxy for the white working class as a whole is a very shaky proposition indeed (though it’s obvious why liberal Democrats would like that proposition to be widely accepted).

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        T A R United.
        Trash of All Races United.

        We don’t have to like eachother to work together on joint projects of shared mutual interest. We just have to like the results we will get.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          That’s kinda what I feel (though I reject the notion of “allyship,” as if identities were sovereigns).

          “They may be a [glass bowl], but they’re our [glass bowl]” seems to me an acceptable baseline.

    3. petal

      Yes. It’s rage. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling for some time now.
      And thank you for writing this up, Lambert.

      1. ambrit

        I feel it too. Rage is the right word.
        That ‘rage’ won the 2016 election for Trump. As long as the ‘rage’ factor is ignored, much less demonized, by the Democrat Faction of the American political class, Trump and Trump like politicos will manage to rule, with a popular mandate.
        I thank the Deity that Trump is not an ‘efficient’ authoritarian ruler. Imagine how much ‘damage’ an effective Trump administration could do. As it is, this present Kabuki Theatre political process has already set back “Progressivism” a generation. From here “on the street,” it is beginning to feel like the 1960’s never happened.

          1. Rhondda

            “I used to be full of rage, and then I discovered light irony.”
            O mercy, Lambert, that is a LOL ‘quotable quote’!!

    4. dk

      While I have had experience this myself (and am in fact in it right now), I am also aware that it was/is much easier for me to convert my marginal(ized) circumstance because I am white and male, and have a pretty good vocabulary and can simulate an at least somewhat “successful” appearance, than it is/would be for a PoC and/or woman.

      Not easy, easier.

      And what Trump offered and has so far delivered was more immediate opportunity, at the sacrifice of institutions that are intended to provide some consistency to our access to opportunity; burn down the house to feed the fire. It is easier to cheat under Trump. But of course, easier for whites, men, the already-wealthy, etc, than for others.

      The marginality of the difference is only trivial from a distance; I’m up against it and it’s plain as day to me, when I turn my attention away from the abyss.

      1. jrs

        This is precisely what DOESN’T MATTER. AT ALL. If you are in those circumstances and seemingly not able to get out.

        All the THEORETICAL advantages one may have, really truly don’t matter UNLESS and until one is able to convert them into ACTUAL advantages, in this case a job! One could be driven to homelessness with theoretical advantages “on one’s side”, it doesn’t put a roof over one’s head afterall. It’s just an entry on an imaginary ledger.

        (Yes the advantages when dealing with cops etc. are true, but I’m talking addressing the unemployment issue).

        1. dk

          If you’re saying that life is inferior if not worry/stress-free, we’ll just disagree.

          We proceed in life on our theories of the future, our individual ones and our collective social/economic ones. The theories of the future our economy offers us matter, whether they are deliverable/delivered or not, because they are part of our decision matrix.

          At the time you pondered suicide (mentioned in your previous post), your prospects of continued life were theoretical, and only theoretically in doubt (because you weren’t actually dead yet). You chose to go forward on theory, I think it was a wise choice (although that might be my own confirmation bias). But the theory mattered then, and still does even when all is well for the present. Will our species survive an impending climate apocalypse? There are theories both ways, and those theories will guide our choices in getting from now to then.

        2. Steve

          They’re not even advantages. At my current job there is a hiring freeze on men in my department. And I get it, but it would never happen the other way around. At least not while publicly acknowledged and joked about.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Did you have the Visible Stigmata of the Lower Class Past?

        Did you have poor grammar? Poor clothes? Visibly bad/discolored/ some-missing teeth? Did you have an Appalachian or Post-Appalachian accent?

    5. SOMK

      (5 years eh? Think I could beat that)

      College age radicals have been irritating the people they’resupposed to be radicalising since as long as they’ve existed, saw an old BBC clip from Adam curtis’ BBC blog (search for “Pauline boty Adam Curtis” if interested) earnest but quite posh British 60’s student Marxists trying to tell various working class men on their way into work by how oppressed they are. With exactly the results you’d expect.

      But who is telling the poor white person about the existence of college going liberals who thinks they are privileged? Where are they getting their information from and how is it framed? What arguments are being shared and spoken about (because they reinforce certain tropes) and what are being ignored? There is also the context of the big giant outrage machine that is online interaction, with a propensity for identifying straw men outgroups, the criticism of which serves to solidify the in group (it depends on the community what kind of straw man, or how numerous they are).

      Theodore Allen had it right in ‘the invention of the white race’ IMO, he demonstrates the history of white privialege in that it was precisely that a privilege that was brought in to maintain class control, “whiteness” was never a consistent category and only came into use in places like Virginia some seventy years after they were settled and was in reaction to a wave of revolts where white workers/slaves and black slaves joined forces against the bosses. So when white slaves became free they were given money and resources, only whites were allowed to own slaves, later things like the GI bill and mortgage assistance were only given to whites, with very few exceptions, but it’s a trick it’s a means of class control, white people don’t benefit from it, the places where you see the most entrenched Racism are also the places where you see the lowest wages.

      In other words yes it does exist but it’s conceptualised entirely wrongly (probably by design as the version we get is one which suits the powers that be just fine) the standard definition of white privileged being an ideological racially bias structure that which benefits white people is entirely backwards, it does nothing of the sort, it keeps them docile for fear of loosing said “privileges”, by giving people someone to look down on it means they’re not looking up, it means they can be led by the nose by cynical dog whistle racists, because now their interests are aligned with the upper classes, in wanting to repress an existential threat from below, it’s the same trick as the oldest class distinction the one between men and women, you want to control all the people tell one half they are in charge of/Better than the other.

      It’s no surprise that we get these kinds of results from such studies because the version of privilege theory that’s discussed (namely Krenshaw’s which came out of labour disputes and didn’t fully account for class difference between employers and employees), is the version they want discussed.

      The other thing to bear in mind is that the intergeneration ladder has been raised for people born after 1980, you’re talking less job security, house purchasing costs tens times their income when forvtheir parents it was 2-3 times. So you get a hyper concentration on things which can potentially discredit older entrenched types, because if senior potisions are no longer emerging at a rate to satisfy the demand for them from it creates an atmosphere where entrants are more keen to try to discredit embumbents which also helps create the current political climate.

      1. Chaos

        Thanks SOMK I read the comments section for comments like this.

        So class is the problem.


  3. Joe Well

    What struck me back when I attended a super-expensive American university was how desperate the students were to believe that they owed almost everything they had to their own individual hard work, when in reality, family (and to much a lesser extent, family connections) was mostly responsible. After all, who paid for everything? And who made sure they read books and took music lessons and tennis lessons and everything else?

    Working class people tend to talk about the sacrifices their families made for them and what they learned from their communities. The 1-5% or so are much more individualistic in their mindsets.

    Talking about racism is a balm to rich white people because it rhetorically takes them out of the 1% and puts them into the much larger % of human beings who are white. Talking about race is a way of avoiding talking about class and economic and status issues generally.

    And they do not, in reality, despite what they may say, look down on the white 90-99% more than on the POC 90-99%. They look down on them all, and tend to have the same background racial prejudices as everyone in the population.

    1. Carolinian

      Thanks, and well said. It used to be that people knew very well what “privilege” meant and it applied to the ruling class. Obviously well heeled kids at expensive universities aren’t too interested in denouncing “class privilege.”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      >And they do not, in reality, despite what they may say, look down on the white 90-99% more than on the POC 90-99%. They look down on them all, and tend to have the same background racial prejudices as everyone in the population.

      The study shows the opposite, though.

      1. Joe Well

        Ack! I just re read your post (no time to read the original study). Did they say what the size of the effect was? I am just wondering how I square this with a phenomenon I see a lot in these circles: white people in the better paid positions of organizations whose constituencies are overwhelmingly not white.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          There were tables and a discussion that showed the effect was significant, yes. What I don’t think the study could have tested was the duration of the effect, which I should have said.

  4. polecat

    I see ‘white privilege studies’, and the attendent grievances and virtue signalling amongst the liberal college crowd, as pushed by the liberal elite set, as possible grist for future formation of war-band culture by those non-bootstraped deplorables as well as THEIR sympathizers … who I see growing exponentially as long as they are ignored and ridiculed .. especially if/when a future american warlord makes his/her bona fides due ! THAT’s what I would call homegrown blowback, in biggly way .. making Trump’s .. uh .. reign seem as that of a piker.
    Maybe time to get ahead of the curve, and go long on horse & battle-armor futures ..
    I’m too old for battle .. but I’d like to think I’d make some Iron-Throneman a good phule .. who pays tribute in, say a fine mead ..
    Yes, I jest .. but who’s to say that collectively, we’re not headed down that jagged, riming, historical path, especially where resource depletion comes into play

    1. polecat

      Just to be clear .. I include numerous non-caucasians as willing and able participants in the hypothetical warband culture eluded to above, as well. You can’t tell me that many POC don’t see through the bs that’s being put forth by nefarious suspects, purely for cynical political gain, that is currently making the rounds in Greater Wokestan ..

  5. Cal2

    “White Privilege” = “Black Criminality”
    It’s divisive, unfair and solves nothing.

    Every time a poor, middle class or sometimes wealthy white person, hears the term “White Privilege”, they are more likely to vote for Trump in the privacy of the voting booth.

    Trump hopes you keep blabbing faux-progressives, because you are committing political suicide and digging your own progressive grave with your mouth.

    If one starts to parse “white”, then it gets interesting. Trump still wins though.

  6. dk

    I think the expectations are also a component to consider. Expectation (as a generality) is an extrapolation distinct from real circumstance, while privilege is an active real factor, even if general/abstract in origin. Expectation is itself an assertion of social ideals, distinct from social realities; and that social ideals are not necessarily well grounded.

    If we all lived like the billionaires, we’d burn the planet to a crip within a year or two. If that’s what we aspire to for ourselves, it’s a good thing we are frustrated. If that’s the aspiration we should offer, or even suggest, to all, I’m very much opposed.

    Dialing down expectations can be overdone of course. But what we seek (when we seek an equitable and just civilization) is a balance on many axes of measure. And we also know that at best we can only conceive in approximation, and achieve approximately as well.

    The immediate importance of this paper, as Lambert points out, is the insight on how the impact of narrative (the lesson) affects tactical selection, specifically for Democratic campaign/media strategists. White poor are a sizeable demographic and largely unmobilized even by GOP (Trump wins with white males of some means, even if not exclusively 1%-10%). But ignoring the plight of White poor leaves open a huge swing segment, and Dems can’t afford the luxury they granted themselves in 2016, that the deplorables didn’t matter, even electorally.

    Class aspiration is as good a model as any to understand how White poor identify themselves with White wealthy. Dems and GOP invoke class aspiration to suggest that a vote for them is a success in itself. The quality of the logic may be poor but the emotional valence is real, at least under current conditions. But to leverage this leap of imagination, one has to promise the moon; as the most policy-aggressive Dem candidates are, Warren producing prolifically, Bernie with a substantial back catalogue, nod to Castro, nod to Gabbard, to Yang, to Gravel, etc (I can’t keep track). Incrementalism may or may not be realistic, but it reeks of compromise and clashes internally with aspirational messaging.

    Dems need to pick broad lanes and stick with them, not go chasing the latest hot topic or intersectional issue. Slicing the Dem message to appeal to some selected segment, while consciously or unconsciously neglecting/dismissing White poor because of their whiteness… didn’t work last time (and didn’t in for example 2004 either).

    1. lambert strether

      > Dems need to pick broad lanes and stick with them, not go chasing the latest hot topic or intersectional issue. Slicing the Dem message to appeal to some selected segment, while consciously or unconsciously neglecting/dismissing White poor because of their whiteness… didn’t work last time (and didn’t in for example 2004 either).

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

      When I read the paper I was so staggered by the implications — which are, I think, new — that I couldn’t think everything through. One was implication was for intersectionality, called out by the authors in the title, and which they say is very complicated; as indeed it must be, since it takes a scholarly paper to work out a single pairing. Suppose Kevin had been [x] white [x] trans [x] old [x] rich? What then?

      As I just realized, identity politics as a data structure inherently creates a combinatorial explosion — the more checkboxes, the more combinations to process, and the complexity grows exponentially. IT people know that means such data structures can take a l-o-o-n-n-n-g time to process. And humans are processing identity politic, not machines.

      So the social liberals (which I identify with the liberal Democrat establishment) have chained themselves — this may sound familiar — to a system of complex eligibility determination (the checkboxes), that’s very slow to process, that yields outcomes that can seem quite random, and that requires expert training to understand and apply. But it’s not like they do that all the time, is it?!?!?!

      By contrast, in the economic liberal world, things are simple. There are three questions:

      1) Do you work for a wage or salary?

      2) If so, are you a professional?

      3) If you don’t work for a wage, or if you are a professional, are you a class traitor?

      It’s not like identities don’t suffer; of course they do, often very badly, because elites thrive by creating division (differential suffering). And relative elites thrive (as for example in the household).

      But do you start with complexity and work toward simplicity? Or start with simplicity and then manage complexity?

      1. Adam1

        I’ve been saying for years now that the definition of “White” has been changing. As you say the elites need to maintain division. So anything that might reduce that division means the definition of that division must now change.

        As I’ve grown older I’ve become very much against identity politics. I’m absolutely for minority rights, but I find it’s easier to get more unity if you start with fixing the common needs first. Frightened, desperate people will do whatever it takes to survive. If you don’t use that desperation as a point of unity someone else will just use it as a means to divide and conquer.

        Plus, removing that fear and desperation eventually reduces the need for people to lean on conservative social beliefs as mental supports allowing for change. There is a reasons that the late ’60’s and 70’s became a period of leftist radicalism. It’s also the reason the elite knew they had to massively fight back because they were loosing control.

      2. dk

        Yes, a combinatorial explosion, inside our poor little brain-pans. And these are emotionally stressful if one hasn’t prepared the mind/body for such large problem matrices (and even if one has). And so we can see political primitivism as a natural (essentially physical) consequence/product of social complexity, a complexity exacerbated by rapid and pervasive communication technologies.

        A vast pool of near-real time information, a species with a compulsion for pattern identification/matching, incarnated as meat-bags that have only so much total processing capacity, and that require constant supplemental maintenance. Truckin’ Fools indeed; the “sipping from the firehose” image comes to mind.

        I’ve been using this model for a long time, I like it for its predictive qualities (the unpleasantness of some of the predictions to the side). Unfortunately it’s 1) complex to extrapolate, especially in language (although it’s pretty compact conceptually), and 2) adjacent to social darwinism, which we know is easily twisted into self-serving rationalizations. We need guiding principles, goals within the context, to steer these kinds of models safely and responsibly in the applications we derive from them. And responsibility can’t be implemented as an afterthought.

        Benevolence is an under-examined concept. It’s associated with condescension because pretended benevolence condescends, but actual (long-term effective) benevolence can/should seek to create peer relationships.

        One of the interesting things I learned from the martial arts is the strategic value of mercy. The prevailing combatant has an opportunity to forbear destruction, and offer the (controlled) opponent alternative social roles, and the most attractive roles incorporate avenues to peerage, stature and respect. These are powerful motivators, especially when the opponent is already engaged in conflict, doubly so when they’re motivated by frustrations in a social context. A contemporary instance of this is community policing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_policing). But constructive (“positive”) strategies are not automatic goods with intrinsic virtues; tendencies to revert to power hierarchies has to be controlled proactively. The martial artist seeks survival, achieving that they seek peace and community. To apply their skill towards a stable community they need to find peace-producing resolutions, so they develop benevolence as a strategy. Most complete martial systems include these kinds of principles, but they are ignored and discarded by contemporary enthusiasts.

        Benevolence recognizes that social dominance is inefficient, it impedes optimal in-place problem solving (solution seeking sounds jargon-y but it’s a more accurate term). So people who promote social dominance as a medium for economic/social organization can’t be benevolent, whatever they may tell themselves or intend. Winding down the teetering pyramids (currently of wealth, the medium for dominance) would produce the biggest social benefit in proportion to (the not inconsiderable) effort. Flattening the hierarchies = creating peer relationships (between social groups / communities as well as individuals). Equity can be baked in, but it also has to be maintained.

        All of that sounds hopelessly abstract outside of the model. It certainly doesn’t work without the model; the model provides the keys to proportions that a practical civilization has to prioritize: meat-bags need food/shelter/further care at regular and brief intervals, and that time domain can’t be safely (even before fairly) ignored; and broad sharing of problems without developing social conventions focussed on solution development is eventually destructive, even catastrophic.

        Lockpicking tools are completely meaningless until we recognize their context of use. Once we do recognize the context, we immediately face ethical burdens of responsible use. The tool is embedded in its uses. The root context is existence itself. And principles must be understood for their practical value, not hoisted from abstract preferences.

      3. workingclasshero

        I feel intersectionality is very simple to understand after one general reading.it’s simply the answer to its own research project and is blatantly intuitive,as well as boring and politically useless as far as a any kind of rallying point for anyone outside of acadamia.if the dems even hint of going down this road again,whch sanders has in his donation appeals then they may well be toast in 2020.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I believe Sanders is being psycho-browbeaten and extorted into adopting the Academic Intellectual Intersectionalizationalist babble-language precisely in order to get him to steer his campaign into the Sewage Tarpit of COW ( Coalition Of Wokeness) Identy-Leftist politics.

          One hopes his supporters can keep their minds purified and focused on the Economic Combat aspects of the Sanderista movement . . . even if Sanders himself is lured into the Identy COW-Leftist sewage tarpit.

          And let the Identy COW-Leftist Intersetionaloids who don’t like it . . . vote for the Third Party Clinton of their choice, and see if they defeat Trump that way.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Sanders will have to tack to the liberals to win the primary.* There’s no way around it. He can tack to the left in the general (reversing the usual course of procedure).

            NOTE * With regard to idpol, “Paris is worth a mass.”

  7. Samuel Conner

    Oh dear; is it possible that at some level, disdain on the part of D establishment for the poor among the white majority and the sense that “the sooner they die, the better” could work against Medicare for All? My prior sense was that the opponents of M4A are in the pockets (mentally if not literally) of the for-profit healthcare industry; but maybe there are even worse things at work.

    1. Cal2

      Viz, British Health Service once discouraged anti-smoking programs so that people wouldn’t live too long and burden the Health Service, something like that?

      Then there’s the cost benefit approach:

      [Would some geneticist please design a virus that destroys all tobacco plants~pretty please?]

      “The tobacco giant Philip Morris was flayed Tuesday for an economic analysis concluding that smoking is good for government coffers because it causes people to die prematurely, thereby saving pension and health care costs.

      In a report to the government of the Czech Republic that was made public Monday, the tobacco company estimated that the net economic benefit of smoking there was about 5.82 billion koruna ($147.1 million) in 1999.

      The report put the company’s argument starkly: “Our principal finding is that the negative financial effects of smoking — such as increased health care costs — are more than offset by positive effects such as excise tax and value-added taxes collected on tobacco products.”


    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Absolutely. Medicare for All would keep the Deplorables alive for years of decades longer than now. And the Catfood Democrats want them ( us?) to die off as fast as possible.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        That is the conclusion I am reluctantly coming to. Falling life expectancy (for the 90%, naturally, not the 10% or the 1%) isn’t a bug; it’s a feature (and who needs the 90% in a world of AI and robot cars anyhow (never mind that the tech is crapified; they believe their own PR)). The reason declining life expectancy, and falling birth rates, are not “on the table” is that the political class (and their owners) think it’s a good thing.

  8. notabanktoadie

    Speaking of privilege, government privileges for “the banks” translates into government privileges for the richest, the most so-called credit worthy of what is then, in essence, the public’s credit but for private gain.

    Historically, this has translated into relative white privilege but I’m pretty sure bankers these days are color-blind, as long as one is rich enough.

  9. Laudyms

    Another round of “blame the victim” evidently the favorite activity of most white folks everywhere….. makes me completely crazy!

  10. Peter L.

    Hello Naked Capitalism comment makers,

    I wonder if anyone else thinks that Adolph Reed’s analysis is helpful in understanding the results of this study? I was struck by Reed’s observation that “race, like all ideologies of ascriptive hierarchy, is fundamentally pragmatic. After all, these belief systems emerge as legitimations of concrete patterns of social relations in particular contexts.” That’s from his paper “Marx, Race, and Neoliberalism” in New Labor Forum, 2013.

    I don’t yet fully grasp what Reed means, but my first interpretation is that race is used to accomplish the objectives of the elite and ruling classes. The results in the Cooley et al. study point to something I find very distressing. The good impulse to become aware of racism and counter the evils of white supremacy is being diverted into self-satisfying “awareness” of white privilege. The effect of this kind of understanding of race might distract us from building solidarity with each other, especially along class lines. It seems heartbreaking to me that this could be the result of coming to grips with white privilege. That is, some people can become aware of their white privilege and in doing so mollify themselves, now being distracted from addressing material inequalities. Coming to terms with white privilege seems to be not a good in itself, but only a means to an end. I worry that it is seen as an end in itself. That the study seems to suggest negative outcomes is worrying, even more so.

    For example, it seems to me like a good thing to attack the root claim of racists, namely that there are meaningful, natural distinctions between “races” and these have consequences for how we treat each other. I get the sense that some programs for educating people about white privilege implicitly accept categories of race as being neutral, not pragmatic.

    Recently, I was given the opportunity to participate in a training on race and racism. I decided not to participate because participants were required to self-identify themselves as white or person of colour, for the purposes of dividing the groups up. Self-identified whites would not attend the same training as self-identified persons of colour. I doubted that I would be welcome in either group. According to the participants the session for self-identified whites consisted of a long lecture by someone about how she came to terms with her own white privilege, full of claims about how all white people view the world. The other session involved an uncomfortable and contentious conversation about whether someone could identify their race as Puerto Rican, which the trainers apparently didn’t accept as a valid race.

    I found it disheartening that people who I’m sure want to do the right thing seemed to be getting into conversations that feel like they are premised on racist ideology. My own feeling that the concept of race is illegitimate just didn’t seem like it was welcome. Reed points out that “race” and “racism” are inherently related, that one does not exist without the other. Yet, my gut feeling about the education being offered us on white privilege is that it accepted “race” as a neutral category, with the only wrong being discrimination or bias based on that category.

    Thanks for alerting us to this interesting article.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The results in the Cooley et al. study point to something I find very distressing. The good impulse to become aware of racism and counter the evils of white supremacy is being diverted into self-satisfying “awareness” of white privilege. The effect of this kind of understanding of race might distract us from building solidarity with each other, especially along class lines. It seems heartbreaking to me that this could be the result of coming to grips with white privilege.

      Heartbreaking it is. I don’t know if that’s by intent (“being diverted”) or whether the curriculum needs reform.

      1. Darthbobber

        Possibly it’s that, for all the talk of intersectionality, this “curriculum” exists in a vacuum. There is no equivalent curriculum for class oppression or bourgeois privilege that is anything like this high profile.

        Indeed, students who encounter this, but also take their basic economics classes, can be expected to put those two sets of lessons together how?

        And when one considers how many students possess or aspire to bourgeois privilege, (which is trump suit among privileges,) the path of least resistance would seem to flow towards idpol of some sort.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > There is no equivalent curriculum for class oppression or bourgeois privilege that is anything like this high profile.

          Odd. But at the very least a curriculum could be designed without the trade-offs made evident by the study (and, IMNSHO, evident in those are in the Democrat nomenklatura or nomenklatura-adjacent.

        2. jrs

          Such a curriculum will need to be teach-ins etc.. probably. I mean why do we expect the institutions of the status quo to do such teaching? Though I guess you never know as some resistance to the status quo exists there, it’s not the most repressive institution out there by far, the average workplace is more repressive.

          Of course the students aspire to or possess bourgeois privilege, it’s at least 80% of why they are there.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I am just a layman here. My purely amateur layman’s gut-feeling is that this was the sinister and evil intent of the Self-Privileging Academic-Intellectual Elite right from the start.

        And the Upper Class and the Overclass learned very early how to weaponize and disseminate the religion of White Privilegistianity all over the Self-Valorising Academic-Intellectual Brainscape.

        1. NotReallyHere

          Exactly right. The ideology is insidious nonsense designed to invoke guilt and shame on working class whites. The very premise – let’s look at what you have that other groups apparently don’t have (I say apparently because it is not universally true that other groups don’t have, for instance, the luxury of hanging it with their own kind) – is destructive, negative racist nonsense.

        2. jrs

          It may have been CIA, though I have no evidence as such, it’s actually more plausible than thinking it’s academia as such, which is increasingly not even privileged except on the administrative level, though sure it’s part of maintaining the class order.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I wonder if anyone else thinks that Adolph Reed’s analysis [there is his] his paper “Marx, Race, and Neoliberalism” in New Labor Forum, 2013.

      The link you gave is pay-walled; I searched on a quote from the paper, and of the seven results, one [lambert blushes both from modesty and awareness of his faulty memory] is from Water Cooler (10-9-2018). Here is an un-paywalled PDF. It’s well worth a read. The piece is so tightly written that it’s hard to excerpt it, but this passage seems most relevant to the post:

      [T]he “whiteness” notion that has been fashionable within the academic left for roughly two decades: … reifies whiteness as a transhistorical social category. In effect, it treats “whiteness”— and therefore “race”—as existing prior to and above social context. Both who qualifies as white and the significance of being white have altered over time. Moreover, whiteness discourse functions as a kind of moralistic exposé rather than a basis for strategic politics; this is clear in that the program signally articulated in its name has been simply to raise a demand to “abolish whiteness,” that is, to call on whites to renounce their racial privilege. In fact, its fixation on demonstrating the depth of whites’ embrace of what was known to an earlier generation’s version of this argument as “white skin privilege” and the inclination to slide into teleological accounts in which groups or individuals “approach” or “pursue” whiteness erases the real historical dynamics and contradictions of American racial history.

      The whiteness discourse overlaps other arguments that presume racism to be a sui generis form of injustice. Despite seeming provocative, these arguments do not go beyond the premises of the racial liberalism from which they commonly purport to dissent. They differ only in rhetorical flourish, not content. Formulations that invoke metaphors of disease or original sin reify racism by disconnecting it from the discrete historical circumstances and social structures in which it is embedded, and treating it as an autonomous force. Disconnection from political economy is also a crucial feature of postwar liberalism’s construction of racial inequality as prejudice or intolerance. Racism becomes an independent variable in a moralistic argument that is idealist intellectually and ultimately defeatist politically.

      Reed’s whole piece is well worth reading.

  11. adamchaz

    I think this is mostly a case in how framing and context determines a humans decision making process. This ideal that humans can remove context, framing, and emotion when making a decision isn’t true.

    We have know this for some time, I’m not sure why this study is a surprise.

    This is similar to the thought process that juries are more likely to convict a defendant in prison clothes vs in civilian clothes

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m not sure why this study is a surprise.

      Null results are good. So are results that are expected. If the study isn’t done, we don’t know what the results are, surprise or not.

  12. Altandmain

    The bottom line is that the Democrats are bought and that they do not serve the people. I think that the Democrats are grasping at straws to protect their position with the donor class for which they rely on patronage for.

    The point of diversity is to serve as a distraction for the real problems that the rich who the Democrats serve cause. The upper 10%ers largely buy into this ideology.


    Rich western liberals, Michaels argues, don’t want to challenge the economic structures that produce inequality because that might seriously impact on their own standing and wealth. Instead they insist on the elite being as diverse as the poor, as a way to justify the very existence of the elite. So, as long as the top class at Harvard shows a proportionate distribution of social diversity, one can happily ignore the fact that all the students come from money. Moreover, it’s not just that this focus on diversity distracts from the deeper issue of economic inequality. It’s worse, because the very diversity of the elite is asserted as justification for the non-discriminatory nature of capitalism. Diversity has become the moral alibi of neoliberal economics.

    It gives them a powerful, moral aura even if they do not actually care about the economic interests of the less well off. In truth, the target demographics of id pol themselves know this, as Obama’s weakening support and Clinton’s poor turnout revealed.

    For the record, it’s interesting to note that with lower inequality, a higher minimum wage, and a stronger welfare state like that of a social democracy, the so-called minorities would benefit disproportionately. Yet the wealthy Liberals when they voted against Sanders were explicit in rejecting that policy.

  13. JBird4049

    My apologies for the looong quote. I just think it is an appropriate part in the rebuttal.

  14. everydayjoe

    Joseph Fiennes character in Enemy at the Gates says it best” In Russia through communism we wanted to make everyone equal but people always see a difference: how you laugh, wear your hair etc so jealously and envy remains as a part of human nature” these are not exact quotes…
    I think one should look at the broad direction of society and not look at periodic excesses/outliers in data ..if more poor people of all races are joining the middle class then all is well.In that sense how is our scorecard?

  15. JP Hochbaum

    Interesting read. Only one error comes to mind when thinking about this study and that is “recency bias”. Learning about one privilege could lead someone to put that privilege at higher awareness. So perhaps when teaching privilege we ought to teach about all privileges to avoid this, and no this isn’t the same as All Lives Matter endorsement.

    This seems like an ideal teaching moment here when trying to convince a white poor person about their racial privilege. You can gain their trust better if you first explain the privilege they don’t have by not having access to capital or jobs, and then maybe they can understand how being poor and white is still advantageous over being poor POC.

    1. paintedjaguar

      Or perhaps you are the one who needs to be taught. And perhaps you don’t actually deserve to be trusted since the very terminology you are employing is corrupt. Being somewhat less oppressed than the next guy is not the same as being “privileged”, with all the propagandistic freight that word carries. Do you really suppose the unenlightened poor whites you wish to preach at don’t understand any of this?

      The ritual denigration of “All Lives Matter” and the rejection of inclusivity is a tell. The problem at hand is not that police are discriminatory, even if they are. The problem is that police are violent (in fact they kill twice as many whites as blacks). “Black Lives Matter” serves various purposes no doubt, but solving the purported problem is not one of those purposes. Not really. Not unless you think things would be fine if only the murders by cop were racially proportionate.

  16. Joe Lambke

    Could you please email the study?

    I think this relates to Americans frustrations: we are expecting uniformity through equality… and the Voting process leaves us frustrated at the inability to cast a vote which would include our priorities. Such ineffectualness is what leads many to not vote: the futility is obvious.

    And it is the priorities that matter: its why local communities get irate at politicians: that’s the only way to express our priorities.

    I understand that was a big jump.

    But the animosity described by this research speaks to the EXPECTATIONS of uniformity/equality. If instead of being uniformist, Americans were more universalist, we then could wonder at the infinite variations on a theme. And yet, wonder too is ineffectual. And here is where priorities matter: in a system of governance that is responsive to voters, there would be a mechanism which accommodates a degree of preference related to costs.

    Clearly, people in America are ineffectual to reign in excessive military costs. If voters were actually able to prioritize issues and funding, the military would be a lot smaller, more cost-effective, and more reflective of what Americans would like their government to do.

    Instead, believing in equality and uniformity, Americans are becoming less tolerant of each other and frustrated at the ineffectual operation of the government.

    Spoiler alert:
    Quadratic voting is a part of the answer.

    Thank you for your work!

Comments are closed.