Friday, May 15, 2015

Killing the Useless Eaters: 'What's Killing Poor White Women?'

Do treat this as a semi-open weekend thread. Do you have any issues of public or private concern that you believe would be of interest to the friends and readers of WARN?

Two quick updates.

Yes, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. It is more amazing and wonderful than even the commercials hinted at.

Yes, I had a fluke accident while walking in the rain to see Mad Max: Fury Road. I will give more details later as I do not want to further jinx myself. It seems that I may be going to the orthopedist to get my quite injured knee examined on Monday. Fury Road was so damn enthralling I was able to, for the most part, ignore the pain. Leaving the theater? A whole 'nother story. Please do send a brother some love and good energy. If you have the ability to use magic, voodou, juju, or other powers I accept help from most sources...and please, no promises made to Cthulhu and the Old Ones on my behalf.

Hobbling about Chicago at night in the rain, bloody, and on the verge of tears really does give one an insight into humankind's deep ability to ignore their fellow man and woman in obvious distress.

Starting today, there will be a periodic series of posts here on WARN under the theme "killing the useless eaters". These entries will focus on the relationship(s) between neoliberalism, biopiolitics (in many ways "necropolitics" is a better descriptor), and Austerity.

Some of the essays will explore a central and important concept, others will share a link to other work that I believe could be of interest to the readers of the site, as well as some articles that I hope we can annotate and discuss together.

These are central and important themes as we try to make sense of a political order where the notion of "The Commons" has been destroyed, the plutocrats have engineered a society where consumerism, capitalism, and greed are made synonymous with democracy, Vaudeville politics has nurtured a sense of learned helplessness and confusion among the mass public, and the most violent aspects of white supremacy along the colorline are resurgent.

The first essay that I will be featuring is from The American Prospect.

What's Killing Poor White Women highlights how:

Everything about Crystal’s life was ordinary, except for her death. She is one of a demographic—white women who don’t graduate from high school—whose life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years. These women can now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. Throughout history, technological and scientific innovation have put death off longer and longer, but the benefits of those advances have not been shared equally, especially across the race and class divides that characterize 21st--century America. Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages, and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them. 
The journal Health Affairs reported the five-year drop last August. The article’s lead author, Jay Olshansky, who studies human longevity at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a team of researchers looked at death rates for different groups from 1990 to 2008. White men without high-school diplomas had lost three years of life expectancy, but it was the decline for women like Crystal that made the study news. Previous studies had shown that the least-educated whites began dying younger in the 2000s, but only by about a year. Olshansky and his colleagues did something the other studies hadn’t: They isolated high-school dropouts and measured their outcomes instead of lumping them in with high-school graduates who did not go to college. 
The last time researchers found a change of this magnitude, Russian men had lost seven years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when they began drinking more and taking on other risky behaviors. Although women generally outlive men in the U.S., such a large decline in the average age of death, from almost 79 to a little more than 73, suggests that an increasing number of women are dying in their twenties, thirties, and forties. “We actually don’t know the exact reasons why it’s happened,” Olshansky says. “I wish we did.”
Another important finding that highlights one of the little discussed pathologies of White America--much higher rates of drug abuse--and why black women are living longer than poor white women:
As a group, blacks are more likely to die young, because the factors that determine well-being—income, education, access to health care—tend to be worse for blacks. Yet blacks on the whole are closing the life--expectancy gap with whites. In a country where racism still plays a significant role in all that contributes to a healthier, longer life, what could be affecting whites more than blacks? 
One theory is that low-income white women smoke and drink and abuse prescription drugs like OxyContin and street drugs like meth more than black women. Despite Crystal’s weight and diabetes, those problems are more common among black women and usually kill more slowly. Meth and alcohol kill quickly. It could be that white women, as a group, are better at killing themselves. 
Still, why would white women be more likely to engage in risky behaviors? Another theory is that the kind of place people live in, who is around them, and what those neighbors are doing play a central role. Health is also a matter of place and time. 
Let us be careful not to be taken in by the siren call of white dysfunction and pathologies as somehow marking White America a group of "victims".

White skin privilege and the psychological wages of Whiteness still pay white people a substantial amount of unearned advantages and dividends in the United States. But, poor white people are an invisible group, one that is largely dismissed and erased from the public discourse because white elites do not want to discuss how "ghetto" or "underclass" pathologies are rampant in the white community: this would break the assumption at the heart of Whiteness that "bad culture" is the exclusive domain of Black America.

Poor whites are perceived as ignoring their own collective economic interests by their loyalty to the Republican Party and the politics of white racial resentment. Of course, the reality is far more complicated as poor white people do in fact vote their supposed "class interests" via support for the Democratic Party.

However, the perception that poor whites are profoundly racist--as well as drunk and stupid in the depths of their false consciousness and allegiance to the White Right--means that many black and brown Americans do not see them as allies in the struggle for social justice.

Second, America was founded as a white racist herrenvolk settler society. One of the core tenets of the United States is the lie of the American Dream and upward mobility for all who "work hard" to achieve it. Poor white people are an example of casino Capitalism's shortcomings and how the neoliberal order deems white people, like all others, as expendable.

What shall we do with poor white people?


kokanee said...

Brother Chauncey -- sending you love and atheist healing powers for whatever good that will do. (I'd see a doctor.)

Great essay. Intriguing questions. High anticipation for the future essay series.

What to do about poor white women? On one hand, they are victims of austerity and neoliberalism too. What do you do with white trash? You throw it away. Oh, those people aren't "real" white people.

On the other hand, they had the skin tone silver spoon advantage from the moment they were born and managed to F it up. Maybe due to their own fault. Maybe not. Racism, however, was never a problem for them.

I'm a generous donator to homeless people on the street but I don't give money to white folk. It's not that I'm prejudiced against my own skin color but all else being equal, black folks have the deck stacked against them that much more.

Veri1138 said...

Being born White in The US does not guarantee class advancement. Indeed, long term study indicates a person usually stays in the class they are born in.

kokanee said...

Re: "Indeed, long term study indicates a person usually stays in the class they are born in."

That's a good point. What you speak of is generally called economic mobility. Let me throw out all the buzz words and people can do their own research:
- social mobility
- socio-economic mobility
- meritocracy
- American dream/land of opportunity
- intergenerational mobility (vertical mobility)
- intragenerational mobility (horizontal mobility)

And you are correct:

Economic mobility hasn’t changed in a half-century in America, economists declare

It wasn't always that way though. Welcome to the oligarchy/plutocracy. The single most determining statistic that predicts how much one will make in life is how much his/her parents make. Thomas Piketty says we're about to enter an age of patrimonial capitalism.

I'd be interested to see statistics on race and mobility. Poor black and brown neighborhoods have an active police state trying to keep them down: stop and frisk, broken windows, hateful thug cops, biased judicial system that railroads black men to prison, etc, etc. White neighborhoods don't have that. Black and brown folks also have everyday racism from the dominant white people. All things being equal, a biased white person is going to hire the white applicant over someone else. Frankly, I'm surprised that black and brown communities don't have rapidly declining economic mobility. I think it's a credit to their communities.

-The Not-So-Surprising Way Your Parents’ Income Predicts Yours

-The American Dream Is Alive and Well ... in Finland!

P. S. How are you? Everything good?

Gable1111 said...

Poverty in white communities, particularly in the rural and mountainous areas is pretty wretched. Wracked by crystal meth and other highly toxic synthetic drugs, lacking adequate health care, and high alcohol and tobacco consumption, its not surprising that life expediencies for the people there are falling. For many of these communities the bulk of income is from federal subsidies of some kind -- food stamps, AFDC, disability. They lead dead-end lives as bad and in some cases worse than the black poor.

Yet, many of the residents have a low opinion of blacks as moochers off the government, and see themselves as "different" as a result of their socialization under white supremacy, the purpose of which was to pit the working classes against themselves in order that wealth could exploit them all. And its this socialization that leads them to "vote against their own best interests" and keep them in a state of social deprivation and poverty.

On the one hand, the fact that much of what ails the poor in this country is due to the ignorance of poor whites who fail to vote in ways that could alleviate poverty, makes me feel little sympathy for them. On the other hand, the fact that we are truly all in this together makes me hope that one day these people will wake up, because while blacks are victims of white supremacy, poor and working class whites are also its dupes.

The Sanity Inspector said...

If this is a semi-open thread, here's a couple of bits of black history trivia that I found interesting:

years ago the Virginia State Board of Fisheries
considered imposing a
big licensing fee on independent oyster gatherers, in order to force the
black tongers to work for the white tongers, so the whites wouldn't have
to take their children out of school to help work.


1969, former Tuskegee airman Daniel "Chappie" James
, then commander of
Wheelus AFB in Libya, almost got into a Wild West style quickdraw
gunfight with Muammar Qaddafi. “If he had pulled that gun, he never
would have cleared the holster.”

TenarDarell said...

A possibility: Inland rural communities have been dying for years. Perhaps even longer than places like Detroit. I seem to remember reading that the countryside/small towns were shrinking pre-WWII, though I wouldn't put money on it. (I'll edit to add references later, if I can find them).

Shorter: Deindustrialization happened in the cities, but the factories moved to the burbs and overseas, not into the country. If you stayed behind, you got left behind.

Even shorter: As alienating as cities can be, at least you're closer to other people.

Veri1138 said...


joe manning said...

Blacks see racism for what it is, invidious prejudice. While whites see it for what it is not, social advantage, in that it trades short term advantage for terminal political disadvantage which keeps "the people" weak and divided.

The black populace poses little threat to power. But rowdy galvanized getting-poorer whites pose a formidable threat. White supremacy foils black/white resistance by sending poor whites down the path of least resistance, that of bullying blacks out of once-despised menial jobs.

This leaves whites, blacks, and browns so politically impotent that they are in no position to resist their increasing immiseration.

chauncey devega said...

Whites--especially the working class--have gotten lots of mileage out of Whiteness. The question will be what about the "new" whites, i.e. hispanics, Asians, and others inducted into the club to maintain the numerical dominance of "white" people. So much going on here, like 4d chess.

chauncey devega said...

Geography really is destiny. Sounds so antiquated and premodern. I need to seek out some experts in sociology who know about those things.

chauncey devega said...

Chappie was a bad man. Hell of a story. He had an amazing career. Did you ever the documentary on Qaddafi on HBO? Chilling and fascinating.

chauncey devega said...

" For many of these communities the bulk of income is from federal subsidies of some kind -- food stamps, AFDC, disability. They lead dead-end lives as bad and in some cases worse than the black poor. Still, they don't have the burden of being black in a racist nation.

And yet these poor whites generally have a low opinion of blacks as moochers off the government, and see themselves as "different" as a result of their socialization under white supremacy, the purpose of which was to pit the working classes against themselves in order that wealth could exploit them all."

That is the sad part. But as I highlighted above it is a great misconception that the mass of white poor are voting for Republicans in droves. The data isn't there to support it. They are however hurt by working class and middle class whites and their peers who are duped by "values" issues. Look at all the red state rubes who are poor and could benefit from the medicaid expansion under the ACA who are suffering now.

I love the "moochers" and "welfare" angle when it is the rich and upper classes and 1 percent who are the biggest rent seekers and most subsidized by the American tax payer.

Veri1138 said...

Thanks. You keep up the good work, also. All of you.

Now, where is my 'Che Guevera' t-shirt made in an Indonesian sweat shop and sold my Abercrombie & Fitch?

joe manning said...

The culture of whiteness becomes more exclusionary as the economy unravels. This increasingly lessens "white" numerical advantage.

Gable1111 said...

While I would not characterize poor white votes for the GOP as "in droves" we do see a significant number of white voters across the socioeconomic spectrum do vote GOP. Romney won 59% of the white vote in 2012, and the GOP got 60% in the 2014 midterms. We also know that white voters who tend to vote democratic are college educated whites.

But the real problem is lack of participation. Turnout of the voting-eligible population was just 36.4 percent in 2014, down from the 41
percent that turned out in 2010. We reached a record high of 57.8% of eligible voters casting ballots in 2008. Its not that the poor are voting GOP, as much as it is they are not voting.

The GOP works overtime to suppress the vote, because they know that the more people who vote, they will likely be voting democratic. This is why they invest so much energy into "voter fraud" laws, and working to invalidate the Voting Rights Act.

historiann said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your injury, Chauncey. I hope you have friends nearby who can run errands & bring you some food & meds when you need them. (Or when you kneed them?) Take care--

kokanee said...

All that you are doing really sounds amazing. I'm so so busy but I get nothing done. I could use a course on time management. I make up for my lack of time management skills by not sleeping but I still get nothing done. Being somewhat smart and fearless, I'm also sort of a jack of all trades go to guy. Not as sharp as I used to be though.

I wish I was more involved activism wise but it feels like I'm too busy just trying to pay (and pay off) the mortgage - 12 years to go.

Right now, I'm getting ready for a 3-day trip with my 9 year old daughter's class. It's going to be an alcohol free, drug free, virtually internet free 3 days. Hopefully, I'll be okay. ;)

Re: "but I don't like taking something that isn't mine"

I've never quite understood that kind of brothers-in-arms mentality. You owe her boyfriend nothing and she has every right to decide for herself who she would like to be with. Sounds like you would be doing her a big favor. Maybe a little more honesty and less game playing. (Note: I'm assuming that if you approached her that he wouldn't come after you with a weapon.) Anyway, it's not for me to advise you - just giving you something to think about. Be well.

P. S. Normally I use more exclamation marks. The damn key ain't working. Oh yeah, alt-33!

kokanee said...

Rest up my friend. Don't be too proud to use a cane to support the healing knee. I believe I tore my meniscus 30 years ago. It never healed. I've been told that surgery is required to cut the torn piece off to fix my knee. When I get a round tuit...

chauncey devega said...

Very blessed and lucky to have folks who care about me. Today was much better than yesterday. Gonna see what happens. Was/is very scary. I shattered my wrist when I was in my mid to late teens. Weird. Nothing like hurting my leg. Mobility is everything.

chauncey devega said...

I may just go get a cane to be safe. I don't want to have a permanent limp or other deficit. Gonna watch this one carefully.

Thanks so much my friend.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Small town american economies froze in the post civil rights era. With corporate consumerism, small businesses just struggle in so many places to compete. No one wants to go downtown to park and shop. They want highways, parking lots, and air conditioned strip malls.

James Loewen pointed out how former sundown towns stagnated because they feared outsiders unaccustomed to their racial policies/history as well as feared other places. I think racism has a lot to do with centralizing our economy and isolating the poor.

Now the economy really is in the suburbs. Rural residents pray for a new wal mart to open nearby and it will. But all of these companies don't pay their employees anything and once they start developing in a lower income area, property values skyrocket, old residents can't pay their new property tax and locals take jobs that they can only scrape by with.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I read an article from the Atlantic about Amtrak that was very good. I took from it that Amtrak was doomed from the start, freight trains really drive the economy and inhibit passenger rails, the decline was probably due to desegregation in the 1960's, with some of the last segregated trains integrating in the 70's in the South.

I don't know if America's love for the car prevents the rails from taking over or if it's America's disdain for cities (probably the latter influences everything). Think about it, you get off the train, where's your car? If you arrived in a city, then you don't need one, but if you arrived in any other American tourist destination, you're screwed.

America is a sprawling Disneyland.

In other news, hundreds of biker's "brought in for questioning" after a shootout in Waco kills nine people and injures 18 others.

Veri1138 said...

I should be more ruthless in regards to the woman. He's a piece of sh*t and even the crazy but influential person whom I recently butted heads with (she misunderstood my method in ejecting someone from the community who was causing serious problems - for one, by trying to use my name in her schemes) mentioned to me what a good person the woman is and what a loser her boyfriend is. Besides, the woman in question started flirting with me, first :)

However, something about her being about half my age. Okay, she is half my age. She's got a head on her shoulder, but that age thing...

TenarDarell said...

Sorry I didn't get back to this until today. I couldn't find much outside of the post-WWII period of suburbanization. However, in most of those resource summaries they all referenced that people started leaving the farms (rural areas) in the early 20th century. WWI seems to be an inflection point. I hope that helps.