Reading the code behind “cultural discomfort”

Reading the code behind “cultural discomfort”

Recently I heard an astute commentator ascribe the Trump election victory in 2016 to “cultural discomfort.” Middle class white America, the theory goes, feels threatened about the increasing influence of “uppity” minorities.  “Culture” in this context has nothing to do with using the small fork for the salad and appreciating the Glenn Gould recording of the Goldberg Variations.

 The political analyst is referring to the growing percentage of the population sharing hostile attitudes and belligerent beliefs born of a slow decline in their material affluence and social influence.  The group attributes the trend to the expansion of civil rights for African-Americans and the influx of immigrant groups shouldering their way into a share of the American dream.

 The facts of the matter speak otherwise.  But rational, logical views are not the basis of debate when the tribe concludes that survival is at stake. 

 “They” are taking our jobs, is the loudest lament.  Those damn foreigners, those immigrants who can’t speak English and scab our union wages, and bring in the drugs, they’re at fault.  The fact that 40,000,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation is ignored; the reality that 40,000,000 more are soon to disappear to Artificial Intelligence is unheeded.

 It is easier to pin the problem on immigrants than corporations with Annual Reports concerned only with cash in the till and indifferent to the social costs of carbon in the air.  Never mind Big Pharma pushing opioids like Skittles and Yale alumni at Goldman Sachs once again issuing with immunity valueless tranches painted in greed-green and glittering pyrite.

 Equally discordant are the protests over those haughty black people who don’t want to stay where they belong, in segregated neighborhoods without decent schools, lacking a major supermarket, riff with gangs, ignored by police.  The fact that rampant racism persists to this day in the form of incarcerated black men, job discrimination, woefully inadequate education, sub-standard housing, is disregarded.

It is easier to blame welfare abuse, affirmative action and gangsta rap and the audacious idea that they think they’re as good as us!

An urban environment breeding cultural discomfort is bad enough.  But what is being created is an atmosphere of raw fear edging perilous close to phobia.  And it is painfully obvious where that fear is coming from: ignorance… not the kind measured by IQ, but from a total lack of familiarity with a sector of society that has been segregated for centuries!

We fear the unknown. It is more comfortable to reside within the bubble of uniformity.  Consequently, we know virtually nothing about the daily life of African Americans and Latinos living in neighborhoods that for all intents and purposes might as well be surrounded by unbreachable walls.

For desegregation to take place it will be as a result of a color blind workplace, fair housing opportunities and whatever economic reform it takes to redress income inequality and the gaping, unimaginable gap between the 1% and the poor souls living in cardboard boxes under the viaduct.

Once again, political solutions will be posited during the presidential debates soon to seen on national television.  And I believe, over time, the blood being spilled will be sidestepped and there will be slow progress.  It is inevitable not because of existent good will, but undeniable population trends.  In the coming years, minorities will be the source of all the growth in the nation’s youth and working age populations, growth in percentage of registered and active voters, increased share of the nation’s consumers and number of contributors to the tax base.

But why wait?  It will be generations before the natural order prevails.  We can hurry the process if we think dispassionately about our attitudes regarding race.

Consider the false notion that white, black, brown, yellow or red skin color is an attribute that makes one person biologically superior to the another. The genetic makeup common to humans is virtually 100%.  The differentiation existent is insufficient to define a subspecies or race!  Essentially, we are all the same.

I’m not suggesting you drive your Toyota Camry to West Garfield Park or Englewood or North Lawndale and greet the citizens with a cheery Wuzzup.  But surely you can find some common arena where interacting with a diverse group of participants demonstrates that at heart, we all share similar aspirations and values and sense of humor and concern for our kids and worry about the future and the fervent hope that our worries are unjustified.

The solution to cultural discomfort starts with stepping away from the mob mentality.  Pause for a moment and consider the sources of your views on race and the diatribes that led you to believe in the stereotypes they engendered.  I am not being disrespectful or patronizing when I ask, do you really believe the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump is engaged in a war against powerful cannibal-pedophiles in Hollywood who run  the Democratic Party!

What have you been told?  What have you experienced? Do the two jibe?  Think about it.


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