Saturday, April 15, 2017

Revisiting Societal Capital

An article in the Root today on White Privilege put me in mind to revisit my thoughts on what in the past I have termed "societal capital".
I like to think of privilege as a form of capital, and capital as: that which can be leveraged to gain advantage in society. There are many forms of capital - financial (cash), emotional (regulation), cognitive (learning, vocabulary), neighborhood (safety, networking), educational (classmates, teachers), community (stores, libraries, services, parks), parental (this one is huge, maybe most important as it affects all others: family dynamics, stress, relational development, cognitive enrichment, vocabulary spoken), racial/ethnic (treatment and assumptions in society).

These are all interwoven and dynamically linked, interacting in non-linear ways. In combination they open up new avenues of privilege. However, when subtracted and de-linked, they do the opposite. They cut off avenues of opportunity and actively place in the individual at risk for further devaluation of capital. For instance, having a car opens up new job opportunities. But living in a poor neighborhood and having a car stolen can make traveling to work more difficult, which increases stress, increases costs if car payments are still due, limits family engagement, lowers status, etc.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How Conservatism Breeds Racist Thought

Years ago on this blog I made the argument that conservative ideology actually promotes racism.  Because of its assumption of free will, it sees disproportionate dysfunctional behavior among certain minorities as a function of inner, intrinsic qualities, as opposed to external, structural forces.

New results from the General Social Survey (GSS) from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago seem to confirm my argument.  As reported in the Washington Post:
"The biggest yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans is on the issue of motivation and will power. The GSS asks whether African Americans are worse off economically “because most just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?”
A majority — 55 percent — of white Republicans agreed with this statement, compared to 26 percent of white Democrats. That's the biggest gap since the question was first asked in 1977 — though the gap was similar (60-32) in 2010."
An interesting question, not asked in the survey, might be whether conservative Republicans would also say that economically disadvantaged whites lack motivation and willpower.  A charitable view would hold they would, assuming no racial animus and instead following the logic of their dualistic view of human nature.

Yet how then, with this individualistic worldview, do you make sense of the fact that certain minorities are economically worse-off?  If they are "making the choice" to be worse off, and there is no appeal structural disadvantage, a racialized view begins to make more sense.