Lately there has been a flurry of articles on two subjects. One is on complaints that Obama has not greatly helped the economic status of blacks in relation to whites. The other is about how much money women earn in relation to that paid to men.
No matter how much merit you think these concerns have, whether inequality of results must indicate inequality of opportunity or not, there is a real problem with them. With the possible exception of during the Great Depression, chances for all working Americans have never been weaker. Almost anyone in the workforce can talk about being turned down for jobs, getting poor raises or none at all, or not being chosen for promotions or better assignments where they clearly thought they were the most deserving. Discrimination is everywhere, and not only against people of specific groups. As with the perceived problem of inequality, the issue is not that others are doing better, but that so many can't support themselves decently.
So what is the result when a great majority of Americans, those who are black, gay, Hispanic, or female, Vietnam veterans, or what have you, are told that their employment problems are because of these things? It divides the country. People see others as being protected, with smooth paths and ample chances, when in fact that is far from the truth. Instead of Americans realizing that the jobs crisis, which is permanent and will not end with better economic times, is a national problem that needs national attention, we turn on each other. As citizens of a huge, diverse country remarkably physically isolated from others, we have long had the luxury of thinking our group membership means our differences with our countrymen and countrywomen outweigh what we have in common with them. No longer can we afford that.
We are Americans. We comprise fewer than 5% of the people in the world. We have our differences, but almost all of us want the best for our country. That now means taking the jobs crisis as an American problem needing American - not white, straight, black, Baptist, Italian ancestry, self-employed, or whatever - answers. The sooner we can realize that American issues belong to all of us collectively, and are no longer confined to those in different groups, the stronger we will be and the quicker we will be able to discuss and implement solutions.