Is racial equality being sacrificed on the altar of class equality?

Thanks to a Linkedin group, I read an article that came out a few weeks ago from the New York Times that seems to caution readers that race, particularly in the context of college admissions, is starting to fall behind economic class in the affirmative action hierarchy.

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Takin’ aim

This morning, I stumbled on an article on the Bloomburg website about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sanctioning certain banks for vehicle loans and loan interest rate increases by the auto dealer that appear discriminatory.

Dealers often provide financing by giving buyers loans backed by banks and other lenders, a process known as indirect lending…buyers receive a loan that is costlier than the one the bank gave the dealer.

One particular part of the article jumped out at me:

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American Servants

A particularly powerful point, to me, this blog made is that the U.S. still has servants in the form of certain kinds of employment. For example, nannies paid under the table or illegal immigrants.

I have usually heard this phenomenon couched in either two politically-charged terms that have associated judgments. This may be an example of “people stealing American jobs” (and the judgment is “Boooo! “They’re doing something wrong! Stop them!”)

Conversely, it may be “people working hard to make their way” (and the judgment is “Yea – they’re going the ole bootstrap approach! Good for them!”)  I realize these categories are oversimplified, but in both cases, the judgment is on what “they’re” doing wrong.

If these people are relabeled “servants,” that changes the judgment entirely.  It removes the focus from what “they’re” doing and transfers the responsibility to us, the system that allows and benefits from it.

One of the problem with calling them “servants” is that it sheds light on a complicated snarl of possible factors – immigration policy, minimum wage, education and job training, public opinion, and there isn’t an easy or clear way to  unravel that. In reality, it’s a result of a combination of all of those things and more.

A good start may be to call a spade a spade and start calling these people “servants” rather than “employees.” I think public discourse would begin to shift.

Working-Class Perspectives

In season two of Downton Abbey, the inimical Dame Maggie Smith (who plays the “Dowager Countess”) finds out that one of the family’s servants will be allowed to live out his final days (after suffering an incurable war wound) in the family’s lavish second floor quarters. The Countess is displeased by this and opines that “It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.”

If you are a fan of the show, one of the 7.9 million US viewers who watched Downton Abbey kick off its third season on PBS earlier this month, you know full well that the “little people” in this early 20th century British world—the kitchen maids, ladies’ maids, footmen, valets, chauffeurs, cooks, housekeepers, and butlers—have very little power. They scheme and scrap for the merest improvements in pay and job title. A few of them rise…

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