Last week there were a few stories in the New York Times, seemingly independently written and unrelated to one another. The first concerned the Supreme Court backing the Michigan ban on race as a factor in college entry. The second was a long piece on why the U.S. middle class is no longer the world’s richest. The third was the Nepali Sherpas move to shut down Mt. Everest in an attempt to get better working conditions. These were all on Wednesday 23 April 2014. Later in the week, there was a story of two girls who bullied, degraded, and almost killed an autistic boy in their school. Finally, Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team was caught making some overtly racist remarks. This is most curious as he made them to a close woman friend who is reported to be of Hispanic and African American heritage and almost every player on the Clippers is black.
What do these stories have in common, if anything? Or am I force fitting them into some ideological position? To my mind, it has to do with our notion of political inclusion and exclusion.
Proponents of the Michigan ban on affirmative action argue that it gives race based preference to some, thus denying others some sort of due process. The majority opinion seemed to uphold the notion that if the citizens of Michigan voted for this ban, then the Supreme Court had no authority to overturn it. To my simple, non-legally trained mind, this sounds very much like those who argue that the Confederate States of America was about states’ rights, i.e. the right of the good citizens to enslave the black population for economic gain and perpetuation of the belief still held by some that white people are superior to black, brown, and yellow people and that they have some God given right to a superior position. If this is clearly about exclusion of some from the political process, just as the wave of new voter laws uses a phony rubric of non-existent voter fraud to deny the ballot to mostly minority voters.
The story on the decline of the American Middle class was a long piece that detailed the growing disparity in incomes in the US. Much of this is due to the very long recession and the movement of good paying manufacturing jobs to lower wage countries, primarily China. Go into a hardware store these day and see what is made in this country and what is made in China. The Bush era tax cuts also play into this. They basically shifted income and wealth into the pockets of the highest earners in the county, excluding those in the middle and the bottom of the economic pile.
The bullying of the autistic teenage boy by two girls is hardly a new story, but the Washington Post report this week from St. Mary’s County Maryland was particularly disturbing. It is alleged that the girls almost drowned him in a local pond, encouraged him to perform sex acts with animals, and held a kitchen knife to his throat. Autistic children interact differently than their peers, but there’s no excuse for excluding the boy from the set of people that we treat decently.
Donald Sterling wanted to exclude blacks from sitting with his woman friend. He also paid a large fine for attempting to exclude blacks and Latinos from his apartments in Los Angeles, preferring white and Asian tenants.
But wait, there’s more. Some Christians want to exclude non-Christians from heaven citing the bible as proof. Some Muslims want to exclude non-Muslims from the political process because they’re infidels. Some Jews, believing they’re the Chosen People, want to wall off their ghettos to exclude their non-Jewish neighbors from getting in. Please excuse if I’ve excluded other religious groups from this article.