I can’t go into the details, but a member of my family was recently preyed upon by some seemingly crooked cops. And it got me thinking about the rough set of circumstances that some people are born with. Say you were personally affected by some number of these circumstances:
- You grow up in a poor neighborhood
- You have an unstable family situation
- There were a lot of kids who try to get you to smoke or do drugs growing up
- You have an appearance which makes it hard for you to make friends
- It’s hard to find people to help you with your homework
- You were not nurtured or were maybe even abused as a child
- You are not of the majority race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity where you grew up
- English is not your first language
Now what the general societal narrative tells you is that if you work really hard, make a reasonable amount of reasonably good choices, and don’t do anything catastrophically stupid you’ll make it and have a good life. That you’ll be okay and not have to deal with an unreasonable amount of hardship.
But this is what gets me – say you are a person who has at least a handful of those statements applying to you. And let’s say you work real hard, make a reasonable amount of reasonably good choices, and you do not do anything catastrophically stupid. You do everything right.
The way I see it in American today, there’s still a good chance you won’t make it, because you get miffed hard by the system. Because if you’re one of those people I’ve referenced above (and maybe not even as in as difficult a starting point as one of those folks) you still have to deal with these political realities, which are totally outside your control:
- Cops are going to write you up for things that you don’t deserve
- Even if you get good grades, you can’t afford to pay for college or graduate school
- You get passed over for a job (or paid less) for reasons having nothing to do with your qualifications
- You are poorly represented in congress because your district is gerrymandered, and so laws and policies never slide your way
- Because of your social identity, you’re never able to act like yourself – you always feel like you have to put up a front
- You never feel like you can enact political change because of the tremendous influence of money in politics (and you’re not a rainmaker)
- You don’t have the personal or family connections of others so you never get access to the best jobs, mentors, or business opportunities
So let me recap where we’re at with this hypothetical example – you’re born at a disadvantage but you work really hard and do everything right. But you know that you probably still won’t make it because of how much the system is stacked against you. So whether you work hard or not, you hold the reasonable belief that your chances of being upwardly socially mobile are slim. So why even try?
If I were in that situation, I’d find it very hard to motivate myself to work hard. And even though I’m incredibly privileged because of the circumstances of my birth, I even feel politically marginalized in some of the ways I’ve listed.
All this makes me think that if we’re ever going to resolve social inequity in America, we’re going to get nowhere if we don’t resolve political inequities first. Because if we don’t resolve political inequities, it’s disillusioning to the point of giving up hope. And, I couldn’t hardly blame anyone for giving up if the political deck was stacked against them like that.
This is all a bit stream of consciousness and written rawly. I get that. That sort of style seems fitting, given the topic.