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How Racism And Sexism Are Net Drains on the U.S. Economy


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In addition, news articles of Blacks who received a death sentence contain more animal language than the articles of those with life sentences. “So not only are Blacks associated with apes, but this association is linked to justifications of violence and death,” Eberhardt concluded. “It’s almost as though the rules for what moral treatment is get shifted for Black suspects and defendants.”

Because the inequalities of race (and gender) work impersonally and structurally in neoliberal, 21st century, corporate-democracy "multicultural" America, the most powerful way of overcoming them, is by appealing to a basic, material calculus of shared self-interest in the service of realpolitik.

For example, Dr. King and the other brave Freedom Soldiers he struggled and died with, "won" the Civil Rights Movement because of their pressure on the United States government in the context of the Cold War. Elite interests were served by making some concessions--some basic, others radical--and dismantling formal Jim and Jane Crow.

Thus one must ask, without the Cold War, would the Civil Rights Movement have been successful? The counterfactual scares me.

While not surrendering to a crude materialism, I have long been telling folks that racism's (and sexism's) greatest social evil is how it generates a net loss on the economic and material productivity of the United States. This economic inefficiency has a direct impact (both positively and negatively) on the life chances of all Americans.

Job market and other discrimination limits the returns on educational investment for people of color and women. Wealth and income inequality can also be traced to such "bad behavior" as discrimination in all of its forms. Moral appeals are great. But appeals to more economic growth and shared uplift, are to my eyes, even more compelling reasons for confronting both day-to-day, as well as structural racism and sexism.

David Futrelle, writing in Time magazine, would seem to agree where he offers up the following analysis:

Before we get to the recent research, let’s look at the ways discrimination hurts us. Economists see discrimination as a form of economic inefficiency – a massive, systematic misallocation of human resources. Those in the discriminated-against groups can’t bring their full talents to the table, languishing in jobs that are in many ways “beneath them,” while less-talented members of more privileged groups take high-powered, high-paying jobs that are beyond their abilities, dragging down everyone with their relative incompetence.

Economists describe this, drily, in terms of “human capital frictions” that impose “a group-specific tax for each occupation on the inputs into human capital production,” as one recent paper puts it.

But the costs of discrimination are depicted in a much more memorable manner in the show Mad Men, particularly in its earlier seasons. The show, as many of you no doubt are aware, takes place in an ad agency in the 1960s that’s basically one big boys club, in which talented women are relegated to being support staff for ad men who are in some cases little more than amiable drunks.

Much of the drama of the first couple of seasons centers around the rise of a new hire named Peggy Olsen, who starts working at the firm as a secretary and whose considerable talents as a writer are only noticed by the men of the firm essentially by accident. And it goes without saying that the boys club is also an all-white club.

[Given their love of "free markets" and their worship at the altar of unrestrained greed, one would think that true conservatives and Republicans would be the fiercest proponents of anti-racist policies, as they would unleash the American economy by removing market inefficiencies.

Maybe contemporary Republicans do not really believe in free markets, and would rather engage in rent seeking behavior, as well as getting paid of off other scams?]