What we have here, in other words, is the bedrock, indestructible, and apparently timeless conviction of white conservatives that the federal income tax is a device for stealing their hard-earned (or not) dollars and giving them to crack whores and their pimps (or ACORN, or all three) so that they can go out and buy shiny new Cadillacs and Kentucky fried chicken. Nothing — and certainly nothing factual, like the actual allocation of tax revenues by the federal government (that “insurance company with an army,” as Krugman calls it) — is going to disabuse them of this belief. It is embedded so deep in the redneck psyche I’m beginning to suspect it’s burned into their DNA.
People like this, and goddamn I know tons of ’em, associate black and Hispanic with poor. I’ll never forget a relative who came down to visit the city and swung by my place for dinner shying away from my upstairs neighbor, a lawyer who worked for one of the foreign consulates downtown and made more money than Mr. A and I combined. “Do you live in a bad neighborhood?” she whispered. My upstairs neighbor was black, and to her, that meant poor. And poor meant dangerous.
There’s a lot that goes into making your brain into something that makes that assumption, like the kind of segregation most people live with that says this side of the street is okay but not that one ten feet away because “they” live over “there.” If you don’t live around people you don’t get the range that exists; if the only people different from you are the ones you see on TV or hear about in Sarah Palin’s speeches you’re gonna get smacked in the face with reality and be totally confused.
People associate minority with poverty, and I know all the stats about white welfare families and so do you. And they associate poverty with the choice to be poor, because if you’re up to your ass in debt and don’t have close friends or family to love you and are holding onto your job with your fingernails and you think you have to think that way oryou will go bugfuck insane. It has to be some choice the poor people made to have nine babies and a Cadillac or something, because if it’s just ordinary cruel chance and the world is random and God is a motherfucker, I mean, it takes a lot of Three Buck Chuck to kill that kind of fear.
Which kind of fear still makes it COMPLETELY NO OKAY to scrawl n*gger on signs and yell it at congressmen, but a huge part of what we’re dealing with here is that people have convinced themselves that a) deserving help is the point of help existing and b) nobody is deserving which means c) we’re all fucked in the end. Enjoy your dinner.