In No Politics but Class Politics, Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed show how an identity politics that obscures class politics and ignores economic inequality only makes the many miseries around us worse.

By Paul Prescod, Catalyst

Two recent events have revealed different sides of the same problem with how the dominant media institutions and opinion-makers in this country think about racial inequality.

Striking workers and supporters from the Walmart distribution center march for better wages and working conditions.

On June 29, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions in a pair of cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The decision, understandably, unleashed a firestorm of outrage and debate among progressives and liberals. Given the nature of the case, the conversation around the ruling was disproportionately centered on Ivy League institutions like Harvard.

A great gulf exists between the large amount of media attention devoted to the issue and the very small number of people of color it will ultimately impact. Lost in the discussion was the fact that the soaring costs of higher education means that only people of color from the most affluent backgrounds are in a position to be affected by this ruling. As Matt Bruenig and others have consistently pointed out, elite Ivy League institutions already implement de facto affirmative action for the rich.1 The project of making higher education free (or at least significantly more affordable) would do more to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for students of color than simply shuffling around the very small number of spaces available at the top of the pyramid.

In the cultural sphere, a skirmish developed over the Disney remake of The Little Mermaid that was released in May 2023. The main character, Ariel, was played by black actress Halle Bailey. In what has become a predictable (and boring) scene, right-wing culture warriors decried the advancing woke takeover of our culture, while those on the Left defended the validity and importance of Disney’s casting choice.

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