We are talking about micro-aggressions in large measure because we have failed to deliver our large and growing humanity, particularly our humanity of color, from macro-aggression. Authors like J Chait kvetch about a culture of political correctness by dwelling on Obvious Fools in Ivory Towers without ever dealing with this fact. It underscores tremendous weakness on the part of big-L Liberalism– that is, the political philosophy committed to unrestricted speech, pluralism and a more hopeful view of epistemological breadth– to address this problem. I am speaking as someone who will hold big-L Liberalism as my political philosophy until the end of days.
Society– and I’m avoiding the word “civilization” because of its brutal history– is about working together. Working together allows us to make more awesome things we want, that make our lives better. That’s delicious food, fun video games, life-saving medicine, SpaceX rockets & Orange is the New Black. That is the productive wealth of our society.
This is where we are failing. We are failing to equitably distribute the gains to cooperation. That means we’re not sharing the productive wealth of our society in a way that justly reflects its origins. But worse, we’re failing to equitably distribute the tools necessary to induce productive cooperation. Poor ill-nourished people with no access to capital and no clear incentives to forge their skills through formal education do not produce as much wealth as educated people with supportive social networks and access to capital, credit and collective guidance.
We are leaving our fellow humans— our fellow Americans— behind. The people we are leaving behind are disproportionately black and brown and non-white. We are of course leaving behind a lot of white people too. But today I am talking about how we understand the rhetoric that a growing body of young POC marshall towards their political interests. Black incomes grew to near-parity with white incomes from the end of the Depression until 1979. In that year, they were only 3% different. Since then we’ve regressed back to roughly 1969 levels of difference. Things got worse. Big-L Liberals with whom I share a lot– like J Chait– seem not to understand this as they write about the supposed ascendance of PC culture.
We do not have equal access to opportunity in the United States of America. We do not equitably distribute and incentivize use of the tools of productive cooperation in the US. And our POC have even less access than they used to. They are angry about this. And they are right to be.
If you find talk of micro-aggression boring, show me your plans to fight this macro-aggression.