[Black] Couple Enjoying Ice Cream on Seattle Pier
"[Black] Couple Enjoying Ice Cream on Seattle Pier" RyanJLane/gettyimages.com

The most striking thing about the data reported by Seattle Times' Gene Balk is the median income for black households in Seattle. What's astonishing is that it's less than half ($42,000) of what white households make ($105,100). The median income for the city as a whole is $93,500. The national median is $62,000. The only two major cities that beat Seattle's median income are: "San Francisco ($112,400) and San Jose ($113,000)." Asian Americans households in Seattle earn on average only $10,000 less than white Americans. For Latinos, it's about $40,000 less when compared to whites. For black Americans, who are at the bottom, it's a more than $60,000 difference.

There are two ways of looking at this data. One, which we can describe as the Ben Shapiro way, is this: Blacks do worse than all other minorities for a very clear reason, and that is their culture is impoverished. This has nothing to do with race, they say. Asians almost do as well whites, and that's a fact, they say. So, the problem is black culture and the bad attitudes it begets. But wait a minute. There is another question we can also ask: Why do whites do so much better than all minorities? Both are equally valid questions. However, the black underperformance always eclipses white over-performance.

In this post, I want to examine for a moment why white over-performance is never really an issue.

The argument that Asians do almost well as whites is popular on the right and center-left. It's also popular, directly and indirectly, with black conservatives, such as the fallen Bill Cosby and film director Spike Lee. But what never seems to be questioned is the meaning or status of white financial success. We always seem to accept it as something normal. It is the standard by which all other groups must strive. In Seattle, it is $105,000 for a white household. This is the measuring stick by which all other groups must measure their contributions to society. But why are whites at the top? And here we hit the implicit racism of the white standard of wealth. Here we see that white success is coded as natural, as the given, like the sun rising or, at night, the moon glowing. What is never asked is, why is it the standard? And how did it become the standard? And why must all others be measured by it?

This way of thinking will certainly trouble or offend the minds of many Americans because we naturally assume that the wealth of white Americans is something good and must be obtained by all who want to be good. And whites, particularly on the right, say that white wealth can only be good because groups like Asian Americans are also as good as whites. (By the way, a large number of Asian Americans really hate being used in this way by white conservatives to defend or legitimize American racist culture—and, if you go to Beacon Hill today, you will see that Asians are being displaced by whites as fast as blacks were displaced by whites in the CD during the previous two decades.)

My point is that the wealth of whites sets the standard that should never be questioned. From Balk:

While Seattle’s overall median income figure is very high, there are striking disparities among the income figures for the city’s racial and ethnic communities. The median income for households headed by a white person is about $105,000, which is the highest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the median for a household headed by a black person is just $42,500. Nearly half (45%) of black households in Seattle have an income of less than $35,000, the data shows.

Support The Stranger

Now, what happens if we problematize white wealth as we do black poverty? For one, we can wonder why it has to be so high for a large number of whites. What if a major problem with the American economy, and how every level of this economy is connected to global ecological systems, is that there is just way too much white wealth. What might be needed to save the planet is reducing white wealth, not making others measure up to it. The goal of the future would be to make life less expensive (and therefore more efficient) for all. It's not that the black median income should be raised, but, for the sake of the environment—which would require stable, zero-to-low growth economy—that white wealth needs to be massively cut. The fact that such an interpretation of our current crisis would not be taken seriously only exposes the depth and power of the ideology of wealth, which says only one thing: It is good.

We need to make blacks richer. This is what everyone on the left wants. It is just a shame that blacks are not as rich as whites. Let's fix this problem, the progressive say. But the real shame is, in fact (and this can be easily seen from the higher, more rational perspective), whites are just too damn rich. And the last thing this planet needs is more Americans—no matter what color they are—becoming rich like white people. Instead, we need a system that is more efficient, which would mean a system that's cheaper. What do I mean by this? Take, for instance, public transportation.

It's clear subways or buses are a much more efficient (and as a consequence, cheaper) way of getting around a city. But instead, most of us get around in cars, which are incredibly expensive. If we removed the enormous expense of owning cars (parking, gas, insurance, repairs) from our lives, why would we need more wealth? And this is one example among many. But we believe we need to have lots of wealth so we can own, to use Fela Kuti words, expensive shit.