THE BLOG

Wealth

05/05/2015 05:22 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2016

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Sometimes in a therapeutic situation, an analyst or psychiatrist will point out to the patient that an obsession actually performs a protective function to the extent that it eclipses a deeper fear or more profound desire or problem--such as fixating on sex instead of death. Racism is very real in America. If fathers are absent from many black families, it's often because so many black men are in prison. But racism is also a camouflage. The reason why so many blacks are disenfranchised speaks to the larger question of economic inequality which is an equal opportunity employer. It's convenient to have blacks out of the mix because it keeps one segment of the population from getting a bigger piece of the pie. However, it's equally convenient to have poor whites marginalized. And economic and educational inequities go hand in hand. Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century describes an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. That gap is mirrored in the condition of a society where a small proportion of the population receives increasingly elite education while the other half are the recipients of the kind of training which is exponentially inferior. You hear the occasional inspirational Horatio Alger story about a child who grew up in a trailer park, with parents who were addicted to methamphetamines, and ended up at Harvard. However, most economically disadvantaged Americans are so far behind their more affluent peers that there's simply no way they catch up. Under this schema the elites continue to be the masters of the universe and maintain their hegemony by keeping the less advantaged both racially and economically segregated. In this regard the picture of a meritocracy which de Tocqueville painted in Democracy in America is no longer true. Of course there are token gestures from the top. Crumbs are thrown down in terms of relatively minor amounts of scholarship funds, affirmative action programs and internships with major corporations. But these drops in the bucket have more to do with appearance than reality.

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}