Republicans are advocating violence. Democrats are running on policies that are going nowhere. It would seem obvious to most that change is needed.
Almost one in three Republicans polled in a recent study from the Public Religion Research Institute agree with this statement, “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country.” Meanwhile, the Democrats suffered major election losses in the midterm elections Tuesday.
The current state of chaos and confusion is because the “policies of the past have failed,” said Felicia Wong and Kyle Strickland of the Roosevelt Institute. The promise of a 21st-century multiracial democracy and economy that work for everyone won’t happen without a new paradigm for racial justice, they said.
They presented their research this week as co-authors of a recently released paper on justice and democracy, “A New Paradigm for Justice and Democracy: Moving beyond the Twin Failures of Neoliberalism and Racial Liberalism.”
Wong is the president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute. Strickland is the Institute’s deputy director of race and democracy. The New York City-based Roosevelt Institute is a think tank and the nonprofit partner to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The Institute has published various studies on corporate and public power, labor and wages, and the economics of race and gender inequality. It undertook the study on “A New Paradigm for Justice and Democracy” to focus on racial wealth disparities, Wong said. “Basically we wanted to examine the economic landscape with a race focus.”
A new paradigm must be rooted in the values of the current racial justice movement: repair and redress; material equity; and freedom and liberation. It must center the role of race in economic policy debates and in broader politics, the authors wrote.
“Refusing to talk about race is not an option,” Strickland said on a Zoom call with reporters on Nov. 3. “But it doesn’t help to be talking about race if you don’t know what you’re talking about. We need to be more authentic in how we talk about race.”
Wong told reporters, The U.S. in the middle of a paradigm shift about how we think about race in this country and how we think about race and economics.
“What we argue in this paper is that the racial liberal worldview that we are living in…the idea that opportunity and access to the current system would bring racial and economic equity — that kind of racial liberalism really failed.” And it failed, she said, because of the rise of neoliberalism.
What was left is the current dominant political movements, which are “based on racism and native-ism,” she added.
“Our democracy is in crisis—from weaponized partisanship to an economy that has not produced shared equality for decades,” the paper states.
Political uncertainty and unrest has led to social injustice, according to Wong and Strickland. And forget neoliberalism and racial liberalism. They say both have failed and their failures have led to the racially charged America we see today, the paper concluded. As such, the authors have declared a new paradigm is needed.
Neoliberalism is a political philosophy that favors free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending. Racial liberalism is an era in U.S. history during the 1940s that is considered by many historians as the precursor to the Civil Rights Movement.
Racial liberalism and neoliberalism, instead of furthering the rights for Blacks, have undermined the fight for racial justice, the authors noted. “Not talking about race is bad for democracy,” Wong said. “Everything these days has been racial-ized.” She cited how most major issues today are centered around race — from vaccination and mask mandates to immigration policies.
During the Zoom meeting, the authors discussed how over the past 50 years, the fight for racial justice has been weakened by an individualistic, “race-neutral” conception of access and opportunity within a society dominated by neoliberal economics, as well as the types of policymaking we need to center race and racial justice.
“In the wake of the 2020 racial uprisings responding to rampant white supremacy, the Biden-Harris administration pledged to make racial justice central to its platform. However, progress towards racial liberation continues to be strangled by neoliberal principles and policies that perpetuate systemic racism and exacerbate poverty and material equality,” the study stated.
Black America has been affected negatively. Neoliberalism and racial liberalism upheld racial capitalism that “subjugated people of color with racist rules while exacerbating existing inequalities,” wrote the authors.
The legacy of the enslavement of Black people endures, the authors said.
“Deeply entrenched discrimination remains central to American life. Across almost every indicator—income, wealth, education, health, criminal justice—the material effects of structural inequities are often worse for Black people than for others in the United States,” the report stated. The authors noted the timeline of unfulfilled promises made to Black Americans and the continued push for reparations.
Wang noted that one of the reasons reparations have failed is because “many Democrats are actual neo-liberalists.” She said she does see reparations succeeding in such forms as baby bonds on a local level.
“We are advocating for policies that have equity,” said Wong. “We also must think about racially specific policies such as reparations.”
There is an anti-Black carceral state “rooted in racist structures and beliefs about labor and the economy,” which has prompted a lack of value given to Black lives, repeated police violence and militarization, the authors said.
The report delves into the various political philosophies of the past, putting the fight for racial justice not just for Blacks into a historic context.
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While “racial liberalism” emerged in the late 20th century with “a primary goal of racial justice,” it failed, the report stated, “to produce equity or agency for people of color.”
Neoliberalism was the outcome. “But the history of white supremacy’s role in neoliberalism’s actual rise to power is clear; part of what fueled neoliberalism politically was its appeal as white backlash to the power of the civil rights, labor, and women’s rights movements in the 1960s,” the authors wrote.
They added, “Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, and Justice American liberal politics went off the rails in part because of racism, and in ways that exacerbated racism.”
But there is a solution if there is a new paradigm, they said, one that involves three points: