Black Politics & Neoliberalism In America

Black Politics and the Neoliberal Racial Orderis an essay worth reading and serves here as the primary source quoted.* But don’t be fooled by the Obama and Jay Z quotes in the introduction. The authors go on to explain how “they represent the ascendance of neoliberal values in black politics.”

Photo credit:Pete Souza

To understand that claim, it’s essential to know how neoliberalism influences black politics and manifests itself in American policy. Furthermore, all of us —black, white and every color in between—must comprehend the effect neoliberal policies have on our nation. Only then can we move this nation from Black Lives Matter protests to fair policies that make sense for America.

Neoliberalism: Placing Profits Over People

Neoliberalism is an economic policy model that transfers control of economic factors … to the private sector … from the public sector.*

Neoliberal policies are based on market principles and theory. They serve as the foundation of “reforms” of all kinds. But the transfer of control of government programs and services to the private sector hasn’t served this nation’s people well, or fairly. Privatization has fueled widening inequality.

Neoliberal economic reforms include fiscal policies (particularly taxation policies) that favor capital accumulation. The result has been income redistribution … from the bottom … to the top.*

Although supply-and-demand (market-based, free trade) systems are foundational to private businesses, when neoliberal policies are applied to essential public services it means trusting the private sector to provide public services honestly and equitably. But based on experience, we know corruption and greed takes over. It’s not been fair because “neoliberals aren’t necessarily averse to picking winners and losers in the economy, and often do not oppose measures such as bailouts of major industries” (Investopedia).

Neoliberalism supports fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, privatization, and greatly reduced government spending.*

But when it comes to the “smaller government” demand, we’ve seen that ideology primarily applied to what should be our social safety net.

Neoliberalism, once associated with conservatives like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, is now associated with Third Way politics, which seeks a middle ground between the ideologies of the left and right.*

Left, Right, or Middle? In policy-making, neoliberalism is neoliberalism. It’s the acceptance of privatization as a way to address problems because trust in government institutions has been intentionally undermined by corruptive political forces.

Neoliberal Values

By their very nature, market-based policies value competition thus putting “the individual” and wealth accumulation first and foremost. In a sense, that negates the whole idea of a government “of, by, and for the People” — effectively neutralizing a sense of mutual societal responsibility. So in a neoliberal world, there is privatization of public services, crippling of or eliminating state services, and favoritism towards globalization.

The end result of applying neoliberal values to government service policies is the removal of government accountability. What’s accomplished? It transfers accountability from public institutions to corporations that are beholding to shareholders —not to the American People.

Remember

Remember subprime loans being called “ghetto loans”? Predatory lending practices? Credit default swaps? The creation of financial instruments of destruction?

… Wall Street investors hedged their bets and reaped huge monetary rewards during the foreclosure crisis, while working-class minorities defaulted on payments and lost their homes and their futures.*

And what about the result of neoliberal ideology combined with racial discrimination in the criminal justice system? Remember history.

After Reconstruction, the criminal justice system became the institution at the heart of Southern efforts to strip African Americans of their citizenship rights.

Today, under the banner of “law and order” … the state and private corporations have profited from incarceration. (Note: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has a market value of over $2 billion.)

Prisons partner with Fortune 500 corporations (e.g., IBM, AT&T, and Bank of America) to employ prison labor.*

Remember the War on Drugs?

… the massive levels of incarceration especially of black youth …

[add to that]… the extremely dismal economic opportunities available to most poor black families, and the continued devaluing of black life as unarmed blacks are gunned down by both officers of the state and private citizens …*

Black Politics & The Necessary Revolution in Social Policy

Remember, and think again.

Neoliberalism facilitated a rebirth of two of the Jim Crow flagship elements: race-based crime policies and economic exploitation.*

But with policy-making controlled by moneyed interests, how will we reverse these discriminatory policy trends?

With the convergence of racial, political, and economic unrest, now is the time to insist that political leaders face the truth about their use of neoliberal ideology in the policies they favored. Only then can this country move from protests to better policies — with fairness and equality as guides.

… there has been under neoliberalism a reworking of blacks’ relationship to the economy with disastrous results, particularly for working-class and poor blacks whose very bases for economic success—the public sector and manufacturing— were no longer vehicles for black economic survival, let alone for black economic growth and social mobility.*

A better America requires better leadership on social policies.

Black Politics & The Narrative

Some offer-up a rebirth of family stability as the solution to what ails us. But how does that happen when the prison industry sees human beings as potential revenue and “law and order” policies militarized police departments? Stability isn’t happening. Instead, destabilization has resulted.

And with the election of a black president, much of the country accepted that we were entering a post-racial era.*

If we entered a post-racial era, we weren’t there long. And because President Obama embraced neoliberalism, our nation’s policies —on crime, finance, education, housing, and the development of global monopolies— did not change enough to make progress towards the promise of equal opportunity in America.

The “pull yourself up by the boot-straps” mentality, once a Republican ideology, crossed the political aisle and infected black politics.

Obama’s solution has been to redirect attention to individual choices … According to Obama, government institutions are rarely the source of continuing racial inequalities.

Jay Z has characterized his trajectory as that of the consummate hustler who, through his own hard work, lifted himself out of poverty and into worldwide stardom.

The understanding of the American dream that Obama and Jay Z embrace is one where individuals are, by and large, the sole architects of their fate.

The post-racial narrative is persuasive because it plays to the desires of a citizenry with race fatigue—the large majority of white Americans are convinced that blacks have achieved racial equality …*

That narrative is a barrier to progress. But with the killing of George Floyd caught on tape, the nation saw once again how discrimination becomes deadly. What people can’t easily see is that it’s neoliberal policies throwing the fuel of frustration on the flames of protests.

Civil Rights, Poverty & Economic Justice

Looking back at the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, it focused not only on blatantly obvious segregation but also on education, employment, and poverty. But in that era, policies changed to benefit the lower and middle-class. Now, the public must see how neoliberal values —competition, individualism, and wealth accumulation— replaced our national values of justice and fairness.

We became a nation of neoliberals!?! Yes? If so, then that explains why we quit addressing poverty through effective government policies. Most developed countries employ effective government solutions to address poverty. Why aren’t we?

“Where poverty is widespread, as most visibly demonstrated by the United States, there has been a failure to institutionalize equality.”

“Compared to other Western industrialized countries, the United States devotes far fewer resources to programs aimed at assisting the economically vulnerable.”

Source: Why is poverty higher in the U.S. than in other countries?

If we have accepted neoliberal values as our guide, then all that matters is our own monetary and material wealth. That mindset doesn’t allow us to consider that economic justice doesn’t mean taking anything from an individual. It only means setting rules that give everyone “a sufficient material foundation” — a fair shot, an opportunity.

Economic justice is a set of moral and ethical principles for building economic institutions, where the ultimate goal is to create an opportunity for each person to establish a sufficient material foundation upon which to have a dignified, productive, and creative life. (Investopedia)

Isn’t it time we replace neoliberal values with true American values?

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*Some quotes were altered to fit this format.

Double Standard

670085Some say it is a matter of black and white. Some say it is a matter of rich and poor. Some say the double standard in educational opportunity goes both ways — racial and socioeconomic.

“The nation is clearly no longer content with mediocrity, with just ‘getting by.’ It is demanding excellent education for all. Quality education has come to imply integration, for a white child taught in isolation is a deprived child. It implies an end to the double standard in education, a double standard that gives high-quality schooling to students in exclusive suburbs and inferior schooling to children in slums, that gives preference to some states over others.” —Francis (Frank) Keppel, architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

In the battle for access to quality learning opportunities, discrimination runs the gamut.

As this young man explains in Academic Imperialism

“Less conspicuous is the soft bigotry of educational ‘norming,’ that operates on the false binary of achievement and its diametric opposite of under-achievement….

When fourth-grade reading scores are paramount to forecasting prison matriculates, the social fabric is not only torn but also seismic shifted from protecting vulnerable members of our society, ….

If the idyllic version of community-centric schools is an expression of social inclusion of knowledge, then youth incarceration represents the symbiotic underside of social exclusion.”

How is it we have not found the will to address the issues so poetically articulated here?

“To follow historical trends, colonization is a magician that erases student identities and self-interest without the reciprocal chains of transcontinental slavery. It’s legacy still lives in today’s standards of high achievement…

The subtext of colonization is always ownership and representation. Whose veritable voice continues to echo throughout history but fails to reach the curriculum that serves its offspring? This is the soft bigotry of hidden curriculum.”

Very plainly stated, in The Crucial Voice,…Now would be a good time to consider the view of M. R. Olneck that, in addition to inputs and outputs, ‘two other concepts may serve as the basis for judgments about equal opportunity: representation and participation.’ We must have ‘participation in the process to have our ideas about what successful schooling is and how it should be judged represented . . .. In the absence of equal representation and participation, unequal outcomes are likely to persist since the terms of success are dictated by dominant groups’ (Gamoran, A., and D. A. Long. Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, December, 2006, p17).

IS it unreasonable to expect representation and participation in deciding how to judge equality of opportunity in our schools? This isn’t just about tests. This is about people deciding what success looks like for children. It isn’t all measurable.

And when it is clearly recognized that standardized tests don’t measure the quality of education and that tests are biased, why don’t we demand representation and participation when it comes to deciding what constituents student success and equal opportunity?

Is it ignorance, stupidity, apathy, self-imposed blindness, self-absorption? … I don’t know bobby-scott-bobby-scott-the-promise-of-equal-educational-opportunity… but obviously, offering quality learning opportunities to all K-12 children has not been a national priority. People always think it should be easy, just do what Finland did. Well, their first step was to make improving the quality of education a national priority.

In 1991, researchers acknowledged that this very issue of consensus would be a problem for America. But we never discussed or acknowledged it to be a problem. The only thing on this list that we have

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

addressed is data and really went overboard with it!

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s look at the BIGGEST double standard in our education reform process — federal education law.

We people have been taught that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Both Congress and President Obama need to be called-out on this one! Do they not know what the aim, purposes, and reasons for the titles of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were? Their ignorance of this law is no excuse for perpetuating the pretense of reform set by No Child Left Behind and its “accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

There is a fix for ignorance; it’s called education.

But maybe I’m wrong; maybe it isn’t ignorance that has kept them beating the test-based “reform” drum. If it isn’t ignorance that has set the nation on the wrong path, what is it? Political ideology? Putting politics ahead of children’s needs?

Is it the pretense of reform set by free-market competition?

When competition for dollars splits us into groups each groping for a share of the pie, we lose sight of the real meaning of fairness. Each time we set up a public school education “program” that is not strictly aimed at meeting individual children’s needs, we are setting up a practice that will potentially discriminate. In these ways, we become divided in the quest for quality learning opportunities for all children in America.

“Equality, in the American sense of the word, is not an end but a beginning. It means that, so far as the state can do it, all children shall start in the race of life on an even line. The chief agency for this purpose is the public school system.”—Edwin E. Slosson

In the past, some have seen the need for the public school system to offer equal opportunity. Some do now. So how is it we have not ended the double standard in education? Should we call it a double standard? Should we call it inequality? Should we call it discrimination?

How about soft bigotry?

How about calling your Senator before the July 7th vote on the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) and simply telling them to vote NO. Their version only continues the mindset that we obtain quality education for all through “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” After following that belief for 13 years, we know it isn’t true.

It’s time we demand they go back to the original law for guidance. It’s time to demand they #GetESEAright !

If this nation cares about poverty-stricken children getting a fair shot, this law is one avenue through which to do it. But neither the House Student Success Act nor the Senate Every Child Achieves Act has the original aim in mind.

Update: the wrong aim continues under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).