UBI: Good for people of color (Mandatory Participation on Trial, Part 10)

Significant structural disadvantages for people of color exist in the United States. These disadvantages will not go away until U.S. citizens work together to eliminate them. UBI will not eliminate structural disadvantages, but it can help.

Most people of color are workers, and half of people of color are women, and so all of the arguments from parts 8 and 9 apply to people of color as much as they apply to anyone else. In fact, those arguments might apply to people of color more than to White people because people of color are more likely to be in low-end jobs, more likely to be vulnerable in their personal and professional interactions, more likely to live in high-poverty areas, and less likely to have wealth or family wealth to fall back on during times of acute need.

UBI is not reparations for slavery or for other forms of racial and ethnic injustice, but it is money, and the net benefit of this monetary transfer will go disproportionately to people of color because, on average, people of color have disproportionately low income and wealth. Therefore, it will begin to do many of the things that reparations are supposed to do, such as helping to reduce the racial wealth gap, reduce the education gap, reduce the number of people of color stuck in dead-end jobs, reduce power differentials, and so on.

One of the main barriers to the introduction of UBI in the United States is probably White prejudice. The attitudes we have in our heads about “lazy workers” might be, in part, a vestige of hundreds of years of the racialized belief that some people just don’t want to work. White people should consider what their subconscious image of some people is and where it comes from. The mere introduction of UBI will require the nation as a whole to show a little more respect for people of color.

As I’ve said many times, people will not introduce UBI without noticing that it creates a voluntary-participation economy. In addition, no one will fail to notice that people of color are included in the group who are relieved from the burden of mandatory participation. We have to embrace this as a good thing, as a sign of respect. The country that forced Blacks to come here as chattel slaves and made it impossible for Native Americans to continue to survive by their own efforts now scrupulously refuses to force disadvantaged people of any ethnic group to work for more advantaged people.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Most of the posts in this series were written with the intention of going into my forthcoming book, Universal Basic Income: Essential Knowledge for MIT Press, and many, if not most, of the ideas presented here did make it into the book, but the publisher suggests I soften the wording and some of the arguments, because as is, in this version of it, “the anti-UBI crowd seems like a bunch of mustache-twirling robber barons,” and she rightly thought that the antagonistic stance would be less convincing than more confrontational one here. So, for the book, I made those changes, but I liked what was left out as well. I thought there must be a place for it. And I decided that place was on my blog. I refer everyone to the book because it has a different approach; because it benefits from peer review, copyediting, and more extensive proofreading; and because it has important ideas that aren’t here. Also, many of the arguments here are developed more fully in other books and articles of mine, most of which you can find on my website: www.widerquist.com.

Karl Widerquist, Karl@Widerquist.com

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