Over at The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith notes he both appreciates and is troubled by My Brother’s Keeper. Brittney Cooper echoes Smith’s primary concern that the policy is both too exclusive (ignoring women) and too respectable. If this were 1995 and we were talking about the Million Man March, I’d be prone to agree.
But as it stands I strongly disagree with both articles.
Bringing up the rear to save the day is a long interview between Thomas Frank and Adolph Reed over Reed’s recent Harper article (firewalled, sorry). Here’s the money quote for me:
That’s key: political economy. And you use the word “egalitarian.” That’s sort of what’s completely missing today. All of these victories on these other fronts, largely matters of identity politics, and where is the egalitarian left?
Right, and my friend Walter Michaels has made this point very eloquently over and over again . . . that the problem with a notion of equality or social justice that’s rooted in the perspectives of multiculturalism and diversity is that from those perspectives you can have a society that’s perfectly just if less than 1 percent of the population controls 95 percent of the stuff, so long as that one percent is half women and 12 percent black, and 12 percent Latino and whatever the appropriate numbers are gay. Now that’s a problem.
In this case, both Smith and Cooper are arguing that if My Brother’s Keeper removed the respectability politics (not sure how that’d happen) and was more inclusive along both racial and gender dimensions (spending more resources on the specific issues girls and women face as well as the specific issues Asian American and Native American populations face)…it’d be ok.
When we remove political economy from the equation, and a belief that government not only can but SHOULD be used to aggressively redistribute resources, this is what we’re left with. My Brother’s Keeper is deeply flawed not because it’s insufficiently representative.
And the neoliberal turn continues apace.
As an aside Steven Sherman wrote a critique of Reed’s article that’s worth reading…not so much for the critique but for his historical analysis.