Adam Gopnik on Race and White Rage

April 16th, 2019 § 0 comments

Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker Magazine is the best essayist in America. He is the author of many illuminating books (his book on his family’s days in Paris is HG’s favorite) and contributes to the musical theater as a lyricist and librettist. His latest New Yorker essay is titled “The Takeback.” Using a positive review of a new book by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow,” Gopnik analyzes the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War to provide true black citizenship. Gopnik refers to the late, great African-American intellectual and historian, W.E.B. Du Bois, who said the interests of poor southerners were ideological and tribal rather than economic. Du Bois noted that poor southern whites “would rather have low wages than see colored labor with a decent wage” and “every advance of the Negro is a threat to their white racial prerogatives.” Gopnik writes “It is the same sort of formula of feeling that makes today’s ‘white working class’ angrier at the thought that Obamacare might be subsidizing shiftless people of color than receptive to the advantages of having medical coverage for itself. Du Bois called it a ‘psychological wage,’ but this is to give a Marxist-sounding name to a non-Marxist phenomenon: ethnic resentment and clan consciousness are more powerful than economic class. It reflects the permanent truth that all people, including poor people, follow their values, however perverted, rather than their interests, however plain.” HG believes this is the American dilemma that makes a Trump possible.

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