Be Selfish If That’s What It Takes

I think about inequity a lot; more so as I get older and am not as distracted by the day-to-day demands of a job. I’d like to think I do so out of empathy and morality. Let’s say I lacked those two qualities – like most modern-day Republicans. Equity would still be something I should care about because the real power players have played a divide and conquer game for centuries.

During the Civil Rights struggles of the 60s Dr. King wasn’t worried about the White Citizens Council or the Ku Klux Klan; he knew they were the enemy and there was no changing them. He worried about the complacency/acceptance of the whites who saw what was happening to the Black population and chose to take the easy way out by remaining silent. Those were people on his side of the issue but unwilling to declare their position.

I was born a white male in the 1950s. I turned out to be a cisgender, heterosexual. I was raised and baptized into the Roman Catholic denomination which in at least some people minds made me a Christian. (Where I grew up the Catholics were the majority so it really didn’t matter what the opinion was in other parts of the country. For the record I have been an agnostic for decades and no longer consider myself to be Catholic or a Christian.) The bottom line is that other than not being born into wealth I had a relatively easy path and did not face gender, race, religious or sexual orientation discrimination. My ethnic group was the largest in my native Western New York so if I faced any discrimination on that basis, it was very subtle and almost undetectable. Considering all that why would I care about the plight of others not of “my groups”? Because it is wrong and I may be a target next or soon.

Much of the discrimination is based in greed. Slavery is one of America’s original sins and it was simply an economic system rooted in greed. How better to make money than to have a totally exploitable labor force that you “pay” in only subsistence clothing, food and housing? Brings your labor cost as close to zero as possible.
Taking this to more modern times greed was the underlying root cause of both the housing bubble and the opioid crisis. Greed is a major fuel of today’s discrimination. An exploitable workforce and/or market is essential to someone driven mainly by greed.

Most, but not all, of the inequity in America is based on skin color and the irrational fear of “the other”. I would like to key on that today. There are a bunch of ways I could be the subject of discrimination between here and the dirt nap but the most likely is as a refugee – a climate change refugee.

When the right thinks of refugees today they simply call them immigrants or aliens. White immigrants are welcome for the most part. Immigrants of color are another story. Look at our two border countries. A white Canadian is welcome; a Mexican – that’s another story. The big difference is the color of their skin. The white Canadian blends in with the white population; the Mexican stands out and is often viewed as a threat especially by those who have little if anything going for them aside from their own white skin.

Refugees -which are a distinct and special class of immigrants – will only increase in the future. There is one compelling reason above all others: climate change. Even if political instability, gangs and corrupt/incompetent governments disappeared, climate change will still be lurking for some time barring radical and abrupt action that is not presently forthcoming. Those in power could choose to come after people with blue eyes in which case I’m in trouble but becoming a climate change refugee is more likely. (In my case, only because of my age, it is more likely for members of my family.)

Many Americans will become internal climate change refuges in the coming decades. Like many countries a disproportionate segment of the population lives on or very near the coasts. Sea level is rising which means many of their communities will simply be under water. They will have to move. When climate change prevents certain crops from being grown more than just farmers will be displaced. I could go on but you either get the idea or are willfully blind.

Are inland communities that will be overwhelmed and unprepared going to accept climate change refuges with open arms? Our history tells us the answer is, No! The internal climate change refugees will be viewed as a threat and an economic burden. (Sound familiar?)

An agnostic turning to religion to make a point may seem strange but where is that Christian behavior in a nation where especially the right claims to be such good Christians? I believe the word I’m searching for is hypocrisy.

This is a case where if you can’t support equity for the righteous reasons do it out of selfishness because undoubtedly you and/or your loved ones will be the discriminated against sooner than you think.

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