The Message to Democrats: Most Suffering isn’t Caused by Racism or Sexism

I am a white male living in the coastal US, which is a region of the country where educated people find great places to work and study alongside people of many races, religions, and nationalities. In this part of the country, many of us develop expertise through years of education in many fields, including journalism, political science, economics, and public policy. We see a great deal of suffering around us. In the cities where we live, people of color often live in poverty. Those among us who are not straight white men frequently share stories of suffering caused by racism, sexism, and homophobia. We meet lots of people who are not Christians and who comment about their negative experiences involving Christians. We meet immigrants who tell us about their struggles and their effort to make a good life for themselves and for their families. Many of us want to make the world a better place, so we commit ourselves to fighting against the roots of suffering that we see around us.

Meanwhile, it various other parts of the country, people live lives different from my own in some important ways. Mostly, these people are like me. They seek a living, friends, family, respect, and justice. We have those things in common. They see people who suffer, too. They see suffering caused by unemployment, low earnings, a rising cost of living, crime, drugs, and a host of other things. They see white people suffer, they see straight men suffer, they see Christians suffer, and they see native-born Americans suffer. Many of them want to make the world a better place, so they commit themselves to fighting against the roots of suffering that they see around them.

People from my part of the country stand up in political movements that emphasize discrimination against people of color, women, non-heterosexual individuals, religious minorities, and immigrants. We declare that we will rid the world of these roots of widespread suffering. People from my part of the country stand up in political movements that emphasize causes of suffering that don’t have anything to do with racism, sexism, or homophobia. They tell us that Christians who aren’t immigrants are suffering deeply. We emphasize what we have seen and they emphasize what they have seen. Then we accuse one another of denying the real roots of suffering in the US and of pandering to one group while callously ignoring another. One side must be right and the other wrong, right?

Well, no. We’re both wrong because we’re both right. Many people suffer because of discrimination, but a great many suffer for entirely different reason. There are even women who suffer for reasons other than sexism and people of color who suffer for reasons other than racism. We have good reason to fight against racism and sexism, but they have good reason to remind us that most Americans who are struggling right now (at least in their neck of the woods) are struggling for reasons other than racism or sexism.

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