THE PROBLEM INCLUDES US: Professor Lilla and one other person!

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2017

Part 2—Should he care about her:
Did Professor Lilla actually mean what he seemed to say?

Back in mid-December, he spoke with Sean Illing for Vox. As we noted yesterday, we thought the remarks shown below were strange, but familiar and perhaps instructive.

Within the context of the full discussion, "these people" were, quite plainly, the white working class. For full transcript, click here:
LILLA (12/16/16): The bottom line is that we can't win [elections] without these people...

So if we care about the people we say we care about—African Americans, women, LGBT people, Latinos—if we want to protect them, symbolic victories won't do.
We have to be competitive and we have to win at every level of government, and that means sucking it up and getting the votes of everyone.

[...]

Political work is only about acquiring and using power to protect the people you want to protect.

An election is not a seminar. It is not a therapy session. It is not a chance to rewrite history. An election is only about winning, and you do what you have to do. And yes, that doesn't mean you have to pander to people, but it may mean you have to be silent about certain things and get your apron dirty.

If you want to reform the American soul, become a minister. But if you're serious about politics, you have to go where the people are and find a way to reach them, and not be afraid to get dirty.
Did Lilla actually mean what he seems to have said? He seems to have said that we liberals "care about," and "want to protect," a finite number of groups.

He seems to have said that we have to seek the votes of the white working class so that we can protect other groups. He seems to have said that we don't care about, or want to protect, people in the white working class. He seems to have said that we may dirty ourselves as we seek their votes.

Can that be what the professor meant? We only ask because, rather clearly, that seems to be what he said.

Briefly, let's be fair. In the vast sweep of things, very few people will note or remember the various things Lilla said in this particular exchange. That said, comments like these sound to us like an invitation to the white working class—an invitation to vote for conservatives right down the line, and never to listen to Us.

That may not be what the professor meant. That said, we liberals make remarks of this general type all the time. Once again, let's recall the unfortunate thing Candidate Clinton said:
CLINTON (9/9/16): You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call "the basket of deplorables."

[APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER]

Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up....Now some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
For transcript and tape, click here.

Bombs away! In fairness, Clinton said that only half of Trump's supporters belong in the "basket of deplorables" and therefore seem to be "irredeemable." In comment threads, we everyday liberals routinely say or suggest that all of Donald J. Trump's supporters should be regarded this way.

In fairness, Candidate Clinton only consigned half Those People to a place in Hell. Still, we'd also describe her remarks as an invitation to vote for the other side and never to listen to Us.

We libs can be highly censorious! On December 29, the New York Times rang out the old year with a letter from Woodbury, Minnesota—and from an all-too-familiar Salem Village of the liberal/progressive mind.

The letter writer went out of her way to say that Trump voters "may not believe they themselves are bigoted." "Every Trump voter claims to have voted for the right reasons," she also mordantly said.

Still, this writer was willing to consider no framework, experience or point of view other than her own. As with the parsons and goodies of old, she made Trump voters complicit in, and responsible for, every imaginable evil event from this moment forward—and as with the parsons and goodies of old, she was willing to imagine quite a few such events.

The Others would be fully responsible. No possible error was hers.

"Easy to be hard," the poet once thoughtfully said. We liberals frequently choose such roads, inviting The Others out.

Did Professor Lilla mean to do some such thing in his remarks to Vox? Did he really mean that we "care about" and "want to protect" African Americans, women, LGBT people and Latinos, but that we don't care about members of the white working class, in the pursuit of whom we're likely to get ourselves dirty?

On their face, we thought his remarks were unfortunate. That made us think of a person we've heard about—a woman Professor Lilla should probably want to protect.

This woman lives in Kentucky; on the downside, she seems to be from the white working class. Still, she can't afford to go to the doctor. She doesn't avail herself of free diagnostic services because she knows she couldn't afford to pay for treatment if a medical problem was found.

Sarah Kliff described that woman's plight in a different report for Vox. In his remarks to Illing, it almost sounded like the professor might be cuffing this person to the curb.

The woman in question voted for Trump; she's from the white working class. Should liberals "care about" and "want to protect" her, even in spite of that?

Tomorrow, we'll show you why we think the answer is plainly yes. We'll also discuss the ridiculous way our multimillionaire corporate liberals—and even our highest ranking professors!—keep us liberals barefoot and clueless about the powerful interests at play in matters like this.

In part because of our corporate liberals, we liberals can be amazingly dense. Once again, we suggest a theme:

Our political culture lies in ruins. The problems, in part, lie with Us.

Tomorrow: Revisiting Michael Moore's film

33 comments:

  1. For shame!!! Somerby quotes only the first half of Clinton's statement about deplorables and not the second half. Here he behaves like Trump himself, like the press and everyone who wanted to crucify Clinton for calling those racists and xenophobes exactly what they are -- deplorable. She goes on to talk about the other Trump supporters, the real people with concerns that need to be addressed, in much the way Somerby would like those people to be addressed. THAT part of her statement has been disappeared here just as it was during the campaign. Lets pretend Clinton was only about hating the other and lets ignore her impulse to reach out to the very people Somerby urges us to reach out to now.

    For shame!!!

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    Replies
    1. Your indignation is misplaced. You iterated Bob's point yourself: "THAT part of her statement has been disappeared here just as it was during the campaign." That is the part of her remarks that got repeated. You can justify her remarks also by saying that when people say "half" it is just a casual, and not exact number. That still misses the point.

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    2. I agree with Hillary that racists, al-Right white supremacists, xenophobes, hoodlums who want to beat up on others at rallies, sexist pussy grabbers, are all deplorable. If we do not exclude them, we condone and normalize their actions. That should not happen in either party. THAT point has been lost in all this focus on "Hillary called Trump's supporters deplorable." The problem here is that Trump didn't call them deplorable when he should have.

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    3. Because @10:51 AM couldn't be bothered, just as he can't be bothered to come up with an identifier when he comments, here's a link to Clinton's statement in fuller context. [LINK]

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    4. If there's no need for a link because everyone here knows what Clinton said, why you'd get upset at for Somerby leaving it out?

      As to the other matter, though it belongs to somebody else who never actually existed let me suggest to you as your identifier "24601." (It may help you conceal your neo-liberalism from the reader for a sentence or two as you carry the Clinton banner forward.)

      HillaryBro was a play on BernieBro and implied nothing about the gender of whoever the Clinton acolyte in that thread was- but were I to get the gender of an "Anonymous" wrong, so what? In fact, it should have been of great relief to any commenter who fears stalking from someone among the Howler commentariet that their gender was misidentified. But you're just trolling and don't even know it.

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    5. Somerby knew about it too. That's why I'm upset that he would mischaracterize her that way.

      Only a male person can say that the word "Bro" conveys nothing about gender. You show your privilege (to borrow a phrase) when you say "so what?" As an experiment, try going to a website of your choice and posting using a female name. Just post your usual disagreement and see how people respond to your remarks. It might be a learning experience for you.

      You might be a little more cautious when equating any Hillary supporter with neo-liberalism. Lots of conservatives voted for her to stop Trump. Many Sanders sympathizers were put off by him for various reasons. Many women admire Hillary on a personal level irrespective of her politics and many remember her many contributions to their causes over the years. Her supporters are a more mixed group than you are recognizing.

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    6. 24601 -- Typical of a Sanders supporter to romanticize poverty.

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    7. The life of the 24601 character is a romanticized example of the power of Christian grace, not poverty. The book in which he is the central character is entitled The Wretched. It does not romanticize poverty in any sense to which you are referring. (But nice try at faking it @2:51 PM.)

      Delete
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      Delete
    9. C mike, what policies were Bernie going to get passed as President?

      Delete
    10. Before the midterms? I'm not sure what he would have managed. I know what he would have put on the table from the bully pulpit day after day after day to pressure Congress and build a movement: Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, tuition free undergraduate education at state schools, the need for aggressive corporate trust busting beginning with the major commercial banks, the urgency of preparing for the consequences of climate change (including trying to slow it).

      Here's what you don't want in an administration [LINK], a variation of which we would have seen with a four year triangulating Hillary administration before things got worse for Democrats in 2018 and 2020.

      [LINK]

      [QUOTE] Clinton's campaign message [wasn't] just for Bernie voters; it's for everyone. Expect little, deserve less, ask for nothing. When the leading candidate of the more left of the two parties is saying that -- and getting the majority of its voters to embrace that message -- the work of the American ruling class is done. [END QUOTE]

      Oh and here's hoping the Clintons enjoy whatever Trump inaugural gala they attend now that the Kabuki theater season is behind them and they can get back to gushing over and being gushed over by the rich and famous full time.

      Delete
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  2. "Did Professor Lilla mean to do some such thing in his remarks to Vox? Did he really mean that we "care about" and "want to protect" African Americans, women, LGBT people and Latinos, but that we don't care about members of the white working class, in the pursuit of whom we're likely to get ourselves dirty?"

    Why do liberals care about these specific groups? Because they are being left out in our American democracy. These are the groups experiencing discrimination and unfairness, the groups without a level playing field, the groups suffering in our land of plenty (yes, women too, when you consider domestic violence, wage discrimination, lack of political representation, stereotyping and sexual assault).

    Do white working men need "protection"? That depends on whether you think they are experiencing injustice in our society. Yes, they are having problems finding jobs and earning a good wage, but are they being discriminated against as a class? Are white working men being prevented from becoming educated, are they paid less, are they underrepresented in Congress, is their vote suppressed?

    I agree that capitalism results in a system where workers are exploited and where many deserving people cannot meet their needs through gainful employment. I believe the Democrats have tried to approach this as a party. I do not believe any of these efforts should be targeted specifically at white workers, nor do I see why being a poor white worker should be a protected class.

    I have no idea what Lilla means when he talks about getting dirty. When he says: "And yes, that doesn't mean you have to pander to people, but it may mean you have to be silent about certain things and get your apron dirty." it sounds like he is saying you speak to the interests of whichever group you are speaking to at the time.

    Obama didn't come clean with white working class voters about NAFTA. You perhaps don't talk about sexual identity or BLM issues when speaking to Boston Southies. That does feel dirty. People called Hillary phony simply for reverting to her Arkansas accent when speaking to crowds in the South. Somerby goes to the darkest place and proposed that Lilla means that hatred for the despised white worker must be suppressed to court their votes. I doubt Lilla means that.

    Should we extend that same tolerance to conservatives in order to court their votes, or would that be actual pandering? I think it would be a conflict between what our party stands for and what they believe in. I don't think blurring that line is a good idea, nor do I think it is necessary.

    If Somerby wishes to become a conservative, I doubt they will accept him with open arms. He may find himself admiring their views lately, but the admiration won't be mutual.

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    Replies
    1. This comment pretty much reflects the poisonous sentiment of a large number of Democrats, that the function of government is to serve those who can make the case that they belong to a group that is at a relative disadvantage in society but that government has no obligation to serve the general population. Democrats who think this way are for the Democratic wing of the neo-liberal project the most useful of all political dullards.

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    2. When everyone is protected, no one is protected. When did I ever say government shouldn't do its job?

      You seem to want to call someone a neo-liberal so that you don't have to deal further with anything said. That's an evasion.

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    3. Obama/Clintonism, "When everyone is protected, no one is protected" (alternatively, in the matter of neo-liberal Democratic coalition building, "Protection is for the rich and the poor- all others, you're on your own.")

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    4. That's a nice liberal response. You don't care about the white working class, because ... reasons. If a low income white person cannot afford health care, so what? It's not like they are being denied health care because of their race.

      Meanwhile, here's another article about microagressions and white privilege that we can praise to the skies.

      You do not seem to get it. We always say that low income white people are voting against their self interest by voting for Republicans. Then we turn around and say "we don't care about them or their interests."

      So which is it?

      It's NOT about making white working people into a "protected class", whatever that is supposed to mean. Instead a Democratic Party that lived up to the Kennedy speech of 1980 would be able to say to white working people "if you vote for us, we will make your lives better, we will work for you TOO" Instead of "if you vote for us we will improve the lives of Black people, immigrants, LGBTQIRVOBAFGKMRNS, and women, and we will work for THEM."

      Insofar as we present the latter message, we don't deserve their vote or support. (Or mine either, really).

      Delete
    5. Dr. T, I agree with my whole heart.

      My heart goes out to those who are oppressed systematically according to their skin, their sexuality, or -- yes -- their class.

      We have almost begun to realize, as a society, that we are a society with built-in oppression of humanity. We are still just at the beginning stages of incorporating the reality of race, sexual and gender oppression into our politics.

      This makes it Even Sadder when we see people who are correctly so strongly committed to waging those important struggles nevertheless dedicate themselves to the foolish proposition that America doesn't also systematically oppress people according to class.

      Recognize class intersectionality or your supposedly woke politics are worthless!

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    6. I don't believe anyone who supports protection of minorities is against addressing the opposition by class.

      I see this as Bernie Sanders dressing up old ideas about class for the adolescents who have never encountered Marxism and calling it a new movement. The focus on identity politics is seen as a distraction fomented by the plutocracy to divide the people who have only one cause -- class, and if they become Sandernista's we will work toward the emergence of a classless society. But we all saw how that worked out (not just in Russia).

      And if you think the white working class is going to respond to class-based arguments, you are as deluded as the intellectuals of the 1930s.

      People are not oppressed because of their class. Their class oppresses them because it does not permit them to participate in our society in the same ways as people with more advantages. Otherwise, class is just another form of identity politics, one that permits white workers to escape the stigma of being white supremacists and instead use class membership to assert their needs. Class must be about what you do, not who you are.

      I've never met a liberal (or neo-liberal)
      Democrat who denied the intersectionality of class. It is the primacy of class over identity that is being argued today. Such arguments are easy to refute by looking at the stats for poor white people compared to black people with the same income.

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    7. Strawman. Hillary didn't talk to white voters about the needs of black people. She talked to them about jobs and education and health care and stuff that was relevant to them. They didn't believe her because she was called a crook and a tricky person, pandering to them instead of caring about them. Who portrayed her that way? Sanders and the conservatives. Every email revealed on WikiLeaks showed Hillary's campaign and Podesta talking about how to manipulate the voters most efficiently. It fed the idea that Hillary would say anything to get votes. Once that idea was established it didn't matter what she said to anyone. People chose to believe Trump because he was "real".

      Delete
    8. Low income white people get subsidies for their health care. If they are middle income, they don't need such subsidies. The problem is that health used to be a free benefit from employers but it isn't any more. Workers don't want to pay for something that used to be free, and that they continue to believe should be free. It isn't that they cannot afford it. They would rather spend their money on luxuries because today everyone believes they should live like the rich (e.g., those who don't have to think about how they spend their money).

      The idea of frugality, saving, budgeting, that lingered with the children of depression era parents, is gone now. It must be relearned by the middle class the hard way. When you buy something, you need to find the money somewhere else (or increase your income somehow). Health care is important but it does mean you must sacrifice something else to pay for it. Our government decided to stop people from using the emergency room for their health care by forcing them to buy insurance. It has shifted the cost from the public onto the consumer of services. It is responsible for middle income people, white or not, to pay for their health care. If they truly cannot afford it, it is subsidized. Beyond that, no one really thinks they can afford it because they just don't want to pay for it. It is hard to think about the value of paying for something you don't currently use just because you will probably need it in the future. It isn't an abuse of middle income people to expect them to be responsible about this.

      Delete
    9. The promise of capitalism is that it can deliver broad based prosperity to the society in the present or near term, not just the opportunity for some individuals to become prosperous. When a particular form of capitalism fails to deliver on its promise it needs to be modified or abandoned. But what we hear now is not that capitalism can deliver broad based prosperity but that it is "fair" or a system which is owed religious homage and therefore must be kept in place.

      Healthcare is not a service that can best be delivered in a market system. There are no substitutes for best practices that anybody would want, catastrophic expenses must be borne through insurance which leads to a self-selection "market for lemons" problem that requires insurance companies to charge a healthy individual far higher premiums than his/her true Actuarial Cost would suggest, the industry is so fast changing and complicated the "consumer" can not make informed judgments, the consumer is often faced with a "your money or your life" choice when purchasing that service in the market, service and equipment providers will always have the political clout to extort high rents through licensing and patent protections in a market based healthcare system.

      Single payer and socialized medicine systems flat out deliver better society wide benefits than a market based healthcare system. The experiment has been run every which way from Sunday and that's the result.

      The same can be said for the superiority of a universal Old Age, Survivor, and Disability insurance program for the general population of wage earners. Theoretical capitalists will try to tell you otherwise but there's no empirical evidence they can cite to show that their position is correct.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  4. In terms of politics and policy, I fit into none of Hillary's "basket" characterizations (although I did oppose a couple of Obama's policies, which I suppose makes me a racist).

    Her instinct to say those ugly and simpleminded words in a moment less scripted than her official campaign appearances revealed something new about her to me that I'd not assumed before. She had always seemed reasonable and intelligent, so not prone to that kind of broad-brush bigotry. To his credit, her husband always resisted it. Looking back, her cookie baking remarks and others might have been a clue about her own attitudes.

    I realized she was actually all in with those in her party who conducted the Stalinist witch hunts over the last several years, most often in the form of false rape and police "murder" accusations. No liberal can get behind that disgusting cultural development, and she didn't get my vote.

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  5. Somerby and some commenters here seem to not want to talk about racists and misogynists. Are there such people in the world? And if there are, is there a significant number? Is it worth trying to quantify the problem? And finally, if there are such people, should we talk about them or do we avoid doing so because we might offend others who don't fit that profile? Somerby seems to be in the camp of never talking about "those people" and yet "those people" actually exist. So how do you talk about them?

    At the time HRC made her comments the press was really trying very hard NOT to talk about some of Trump's supporters in those terms. The press labeled many of Trump's remarks as "offensive" and they tacitly mentioned that many of Trump's supporters appreciated that rhetoric, but they never really shined a light on the true ugliness of many of Trump's supporters. So, if the press wasn’t going to actually expose what was behind a lot of Trump’s support, is it such a bad idea for HRC to at least try to start a conversation highlighting the fact a lot of Trump’s support was coming from deplorable people?
    In contrast, during the civil rights movement of the 1960's the press was very effective at pointing the cameras at average white citizens and exposing their hatred for blacks. It was the fact the press shined a light on their vitriolic bigotry that caused other Americans to be repulsed and effectively brought about significant change. In 2016 the press didn't actually do that. They occasionally showed ugly scenes from Trump rallies, but mostly they took a neutral point of view toward Trump supporters. There was no real effort to expose the worst of Trump's supporters to the world. Late night comedy shows made a much greater effort to do so than the press. To highlight how far the press's civil sensibilities has fallen since the 1960's, after the election the public editor of the NYT actually said one of the big mistakes the press made was they weren't as sympathetic to Trump supporters as they should have been. A mostly sanitized view of Trump supporters wasn't enough. The press should have been more sympathetic. Somerby seems to agree with this view.

    If there are still racists and misogynists in this world, is there any way we can make THOSE people a topic of conversation? Is there any reason we should actually try to expose their ugliness? Yes, calling people "racists" should require a difficult threshold to overcome. Unfortunately, many on our side have made it seem easier than it really is which amounts to crying "wolf" too often and hurts our cause, but there really are such people still around and I believe we do need to effectively expose them. The 60's proved that's important. Somerby wants to get our side to stop crying wolf but he doesn't seem to want to talk about the fact there still are racist and misogynistic wolves that need to be exposed. Following Somerby's lead will only be a half measure. We need to confront the entire problem.

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    Replies
    1. I am white working class. Every day I work with racist and misogynistic white men. They supported Trump, despite benefitting from the social programs promoted by Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Some whispered at armed insurrection should the election not go their way, have openly hoped for political assasination. Seriously, in what way could the Democratic party, at any point on its spectrum, even hope to attract the votes of these guys, having been awash in Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity for decades? They're gone.

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  6. "Somerby and some commenters here seem to not want to talk about racists and misogynists. Are there such people in the world? And if there are, is there a significant number? "

    No one says they don't exist. It's not that people don't want to talk about them, it's that they are ALL the progressive left talks about and their excessive focus does nothing except make whatever is left of those problems worse. Racism and misogyny that actually affects an individual's chances for advancement is nearly nonexistent in America in 2016. It's time to move on from blaming racism or sexism for the problems of individuals. Every person in America has access to opportunity to pursue anything, and when they fail to do that the culprit is not failures of government, it is their parents, themselves, or cultural forces (the progressive left) that convince them to believe the lie that they are victims.

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    1. " Somerby wants to get our side to stop crying wolf but he doesn't seem to want to talk about the fact there still are racist and misogynistic wolves that need to be exposed. "

      It's not working anymore. When lynchings and other grave injustices are an accepted part of the culture, serious people take the problem seriously. When every person who opposes Obama on any point is said to have been motivated by his race, or any rape accuser's word is expected to be believed until proven false, serious people see that the greater problem is a modern McCarthyism rather than the nominal remaining level of consequential racism in this country. The progressives enjoyed blind acceptance of accusations of racism or sexism, decided they enjoyed leveling them even when they were unfounded or even proven false, and it has caught up with them.

      Real victims are the ones who will pay the price. In large cities thousands will die as a result of these tactics, not by the hand of a racist cop but by the hand of another black man who isn't stopped by the cop who would have intervened before even at the risk of his life, but has been forced to let it happen in order to avoid becoming the subject of the next progressive witch hunt.

      Everyone else in those neighborhoods are also victims and are losing whatever freedom they have because they can no longer rely on police to stand between them and violent thugs. The wealthy white instigators in the media remain safe and sound.

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    2. "Racism and misogyny that actually affects an individual's chances for advancement is nearly nonexistent in America"

      So it's just a coincidence that the U.S. is one of the few democracies in the world that has never elected a female President and for only the first time had a female nominee on a major party ticket? Congressional, Senate, and state government has slightly more female representation but still well under 50% (in case you don't get the point: Women make up 50% of the population but make up nowhere near 50% of government). We've only had one person of color as President and that happened for the first time only 8 years ago. Minorities have been elected to lower offices but, in percentage terms, have lower representation compared to their make-up in society.

      We've made some improvement with regard to racism and misogyny and certainly a lot of that can be characterized as "significant" improvement, but your characterization of "every person in America has access to opportunity" is false because every person in America doesn't have the SAME opportunities as others. It is much easier for some to find opportunities and a big part of that is, as you admit, the fact racists and misogynists still exist. How significant are they in numbers? How significant are they in their effect for opportunities? I don't know for sure but neither do you, and again, the fact that women and people of color are still vastly under-represented in government shows there is still a big problem, which means that talking about how much racism and misogyny plays a part in that reality is very important. It certainly shouldn't be swept under the rug because you believe everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else. That's simply not true.

      Delete
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