Friday, January 24, 2014

Shallow Thoughts For This Friday

1.  You know you need your eyes checked when every story about buffer zones around abortion clinics reads like it's about butter zones and when the "chivalry" that Kathryn Lopez (a conservative writer) praises Mike Huckabee for reads to me like "cavalry".  On the other hand, that's exactly how my best creative thoughts have been born, from mistakes of various types.  Mmm.

2.  On procrastination:  Here's one opinion piece about the best way to stop procrastinating in writing:  Get your hip joints replaced.  

That was a flat-falling joke, because the writer does have an interesting idea:  That the creative part of your brain (most likely not the right brain hemisphere, however)  might be awake when you are still all groggy with sleep.  If that means having to get up at six am, I'm never going to get anything done.  Some nights I'm hardly asleep by six am.

On the other hand, it's possible that my creativity is awake and doing stuff when I'm asleep.  That would explain why I work so very hard and get so very little done:  My creativity is spent on truly frightening technicolor nightmares and on those all-papers-coming-out-of-desk-drawers-while-poodles-climb-fire-ladders-and-charming-ladies-walk-by-leading-pigs-on-leashes.  Just to summarize where today's creativity was spent.

Procrastination is both a real problem and a form of self-defense.  The latter isn't appreciated enough.  If you delay making a fool out of yourself you feel better for a while longer. 

3.  You cannot really have a list of shallow thoughts with just two thoughts.  That's because humans see two things as a pair.  To have a crowd of shallowness you need three things or more.  Writing about that made my list a proper one and also helped in procrastinating.

Two Short Posts On Legal Stuff and Courts: The Munoz Case And Little Sisters of the Poor

First, and most importantly:

A Texas judge ordered life support removed from a pregnant Haltom City woman who has been kept alive at John Peter Smith Hospital against the wishes of her family.
State District Judge R. H. Wallace ordered the county-owned hospital to discontinue providing life-sustaining measures to Marlise Muñoz, 33, who has been hospitalized since just before Thanksgiving after she was stricken by a pulmonary embolism when she was 14 weeks pregnant.
The family went to court earlier today seeking to have that life support be removed after the county hospital declined to do so. Wallace ordered that life support be removed by 5 p.m. Monday.
A court document filed shortly before the hearing was set to begin states that Marlise Muñoz is 22 weeks pregnant, that she met the clinical criteria for brain death on Nov. 28.
This week, attorneys for the Muñoz family released a statement saying that medical records indicate that the fetus is “distinctly abnormal,” with lower extremities deformed, and suffers from a number of other serious health conditions including water on the brain and heart problems.
I have not written much about this case for several reasons (including the inappropriateness of forcing a public debate over  the private grief of one family, the awfulness of the idea that even dead women can be used for something, the clear prioritizing of the embryo or fetus over everything in this case, including the wishes of the widower and the wishes he reported his wife had, combined with the obvious question of whether a fetus can incubate inside a dead body for any amount of time, even after the woman was without oxygen for long enough to become brain-dead and so on).  But clearly the Texas laws need rewriting.

Second, the Little Sisters of the Poor case:

 The Supreme Court on Friday extended a temporary order from Justice Sonia Sotomayor barring the Obama administration from enforcing a part of the Affordable Care Act against an order of nuns.
The health law requires most employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor said the requirement is offensive to their religious beliefs.
An accommodation allowing them to opt out of the requirement — by issuing a certification to an insurance company to offer the coverage independently — also made them complicit in immoral conduct, the nuns said.
In an order Friday, the Supreme Court said that the administration must not enforce the contraceptive coverage requirement against the nuns while the case is pending before a federal appeals court. In addition, the Supreme Court said that the Little Sisters “need not use the form prescribed by the government” to qualify for an exemption.

On Dec. 31, just hours before the requirement took effect, Justice Sotomayor had temporarily blocked enforcement of that part of the law against the nuns and some affiliated groups.
According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the nuns and other challengers to the requirement, preliminary injunctions had been granted in the lower courts in almost all of 20 similar cases. Justice Sotomayor acted after the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, declined to issue an injunction.
The nuns, who operate nursing homes for poor people in the United States and around the world, provide health benefits to employees through a “church plan” that is exempt from federal regulations that apply to most employer-sponsored insurance, the administration said. The nuns, their health plan and the company that administers the plan will not be required to cover birth control, the administration said in urging the Supreme Court to dissolve Justice Sotomayor’s stay.
The Little Sisters “need only self-certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the administration said on Jan. 3 in a brief filed with the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.
A lawyer for the nuns disagreed.
“The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay millions in fines,” said the lawyer, Mark L. Rienzi, of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the poor, elderly and dying people they’ve devoted their lives to serve.”

As far as I can tell, extending the stay in this case is normal, until the case is presented to the Supreme Court.  Also as far as I can tell, the case is about whether filling a form is offensive to the moral beliefs of the nuns.

The wider connections I'm thinking about are questions having to do with wars and other forms of legal governmental killing.  Those are morally offensive to many religious and non-religious people, but there is no real way of avoiding paying for those from our taxes.

Then there's the general question if it ever should matter what the religions of the Justices at the bench of the Supreme Court might be.  I don't have an answer to that question, by the way.

But  right now six of the nine Justices are Catholic and three are Jewish which makes those religious groups pretty over-represented, when viewed in terms of the population percentages.  I'm not arguing that the Justices would let their religions affect the decisions or that we should apply a religious test to the nominees to SCOTUS.  Still,  thinking about possible answers to this question is useful when many of the cases coming up concern one particular religion.

Read more here:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Have You Seen My Libido? Mike Huckabee Thinks It's Out of Control.

Yup.  Huckabee thinks my libido might be out of control, perhaps out gallivanting, spending money on rubber underwear and G-strings, ogling at the bottoms of all beautiful men strolling by and getting drunk in public bars on White Russians.  Or any color Russians.  Or any other nationality.  Because of that lack of control.

That was fun.  I never realized right-wing religious politicians such as Mike Huckabee have a sense of humor.  Huckabee is a former Arkansas Governor and a former runner-up in Republican presidential candidate elections and I have followed what he says for a long time.  He never came across as a funny guy before, though he did once advocate the Biblical submission of wives to their husbands.

Anyway, this is what he has just said about the Republican war on women and free contraception:

"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be," Huckabee said.

This is still very funny.  Note that the social conservatives don't believe that good women have a libido.  Good women are only supposed to have sex when they want children.  Probably while closing their eyes, staying veryvery still and thinking of the Tea Party or the Fibonacci series or what to cook for him tomorrow.

In the conservative worldview, only sluts have a libido, but in any case (and at the same time!) all men have a giant libido and women have little postage stamp libidos and that's why women must be the gate-keepers in the sexual marketplace.  That's also why conservatives never try to control the male libido, or notice that the birth control women get actually does sorta benefit heterosexual men as it takes two to tango.

Well, that's not the real explanation, that "why" in my last sentence.  It's the conservative way of looking at only women's behavior when it comes to sex.

I love that Uncle Sugar reference, too!  It does so much for those who argue that there is no Republican war against women, especially when we put it into the context of the most recent assault against Wendy Davis who is running for the governor of Texas. 

Ann Coulter stated that Davis married a Sugar Daddy to put her through law schools (an old solution traditionally used in reverse by men who went to medical or law or business school while their wives worked as secretaries or nurses or teachers, though those wives never got called Sugar Mommies).  And Erick Erickson, an anti-feminist conservative, joined in:

"So Abortion Barbie had a Sugar Daddy Ken," tweeted Fox News pundit Erick Erickson, referring to Davis' famous filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the Texas state Senate last year and to her second husband. "[Not] exactly the bio she claimed."

Women can have Uncle Sugars (the government) or Sugar Daddies (husbands).  But male politicians whose wives help them with their careers and then end up being divorced are never called Sugar Mommies.  Neither do we have any similar name for men who make a lot of money out of the government subsidies for large firms, say*.

My point is not about what Wendy Davis has done in her past life.  It's about the way conservatives view women's proper roles in life and how those views translate into criticism of uppity women in general.  That's how you get a criticism of Wendy Davis as having abandoned her children because she was not the custodial parent for a few years after her divorce or because she showed ambition.  Now gender-reverse that criticism.  It doesn't bite at all, because the conservatives don't assume men to do the hands-on care of their children and because the conservatives don't see anything wrong with male ambition.

And it is in these generalizations that the conservative war on women is best shown.
*These are not aimed at men only, of course, but the leadership of such firms is predominantly male, and as I point out in the post, heterosexual men also benefit from the birth control their partners use.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On Abortion And Birth Control. Or Why I Am Pro-Choice.

One problem with having such an old blog as I do is that I have covered most of what I wish to say on particular topics before.  When some annual date of importance comes up I now sigh and fret, trying desperately to find something new to say on that particular topic.

This time I decided to go and see what I have in my archives.  I still like this 2007 post about the reasons why I am pro-choice:

So many different levels on which this one could be answered. There is the little girl who heard a story about her grandmother's best friend, a long time ago, a friend who aborted her pre-wedding pregnancy with some implement found on the farm, because getting pregnant before marriage made a woman into a whore and a slut and she would be ostracized for the rest of her life. Instead, she was buried in her wedding dress before the scheduled wedding date. The story was told to the little girl for a different reason, perhaps, but what she took away from it was the idea that a world that puts such pressure on women is horribly wrong. And she wondered why there was no pressure to ostracize the man. - There might be a lesson here about how feminists are created, too.

Then there is the teenager who read a book where doctors let a pregnant woman with cancer die without painkillers, because those painkillers might have hurt the fetus. And the same teenager went out to parties and realized that in a slightly different world, with those stern pro-fetus values, she herself might get raped and then made to be pregnant for nine months and to give birth, too. And she might die because of this and have no legal defense.

Fast forward to the young feminist who read lots of legal books on abortion, lots of arguments against and for, lots of impassioned pleas on both sides, scientific evidence and quasi-scientific evidence. What she saw was that some anti-choice people were sincere in their belief that a person is created at the point of conception. But she also saw that many of those who expressed this belief also liked the idea of killing people just fine, provided that they were out of the womb and that the killing was done by men in power. And there were many in that camp who really liked the idea of taking the power over fertility away from women as a group, and there were those who also liked the side-effect of removing most freedoms from women's lives by banning contraception. Kinder, Kirche und Küche people.

Closer to the present time. Add color to the film at this point. The goddess in the chrysalis stage realized the immense problems that would be created by the decision of the anti-choice crowd that persons are created at conception. Think of those Russian dolls where there is always another doll inside the one you open. Well, this is what this decision would do to women who are pregnant or able to become pregnant. We would all become containers or potential containers for Real People, and our every step would have to be monitored to defend the unborn and the yet-to-become-unborn. We would have to eat raw oats and sit with our ankles crossed while Beethoven is played in the calm room with integral signs painted on the walls. Because if we don't do these things we are guilty of endangering the Real Person. The decision how we are going to deliver a child could become one over which we can go to prison. Someone else might have to decide for us because of the Real Person inside us.

Note that this is not just about abortion. It is about all fertility, about pregnancy and about delivery. Once someone makes the decision that the embryo is at least as important as the woman with the uterus, well, we are going to build the adversarial approach between the two, and doctors, lawyers and politicians will all walk into our uteri, with little suitcases full of rulebooks.

This may sound exaggerated to you, and it is, in the sense that I've taken the anti-choice position to its logical endpoint, the point it would reach without any resistance from the rest of us. We see the beginnings of this in those court cases where women are imprisoned or restrained for using illegal drugs or for refusing the recommendations of the medical profession as to the preferred form of giving birth. These decisions are based on the adversarial assumption and they exist to protect the fetus, not the woman. She is seen as a criminal, not someone who needs help herself or perhaps better information. That many of these cases fly below our radar screen is because the women involved are poor and/or illegal drug-users and often belong to a racial or ethnic minority. But the same principles would one day be applied to a white woman who doesn't want to undergo a Caesarian section. Our race or our class would not save us from this destiny.

In short, I think that most of this debate is about the control of fertility, about the control of the size and the makeup of the next generation, and different women face different types of pressure in this. Some women, white ones in this country, are urged to have more children. Other women, minorities in this country, are urged to have fewer or at different times in their lives. But all women will see their own say over their lives reduced by the anti-choice forces should they ever come to power.

Being pro-choice is not just being pro-abortion if the woman wants it. It is also treating a pregnant woman as a full human being and not letting her body or her decision-making be possessed by those she doesn't want to allow in. This does not mean that no other considerations ever prevail, but the principle of the woman's full personhood must not be violated. So I think.

I chose to treat this assigned essay question for today's anniversary of Roe v. Wade from a personal angle. But on most days I don't think about it this way. I see the larger and larger contexts in which all this would play out in our lives. Practically all levels of equality of the sexes require that women can control their own fertility. If that is taken away from us we can never be truly equal in anything else.

And More Wifely Voluntary Submission. Representative Steve Pearce Speaks.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) (an American politician of one conservative flavor) tells in his memoir that wives should voluntarily submit to their husbands.  Wives are not inferior, nosir!  They are just supposed to behave as they are.

The reasons have to do with Mr. Pearce's religion, though he puts a fun tilt on that:

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) believes that although a wife is supposed to "voluntarily submit" to her husband, she is not inferior to him, according to the Washington Post.
"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," Pearce wrote in a December memoir "Just Fly The Plane, Stupid!" that cites the Bible. "The husband's part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."
Pearce also writes that while the wife is not inferior, she must nevertheless be obedient to her husband.
The tilt is that "showing up during the times of deep stress."  Where is he hiding at other times and how do we define times of deep stress?

This begins to sound a bit like the story I was once told by an anti-feminist guy on the net that the deal about wifely submission is this:  It's not much to ask that wives submit when husbands are ready to give their lives for their wives!

Sounds like a very one-sided bargain for most people because such extreme events where a husband should be willing to give his life while protecting his wife are pretty uncommon (luckily) for most of us, and because if they happen and the husband fails to die for the wife, well, how do you then undo the contract that has been running for years?

Duh.  I'm stupid to address any of that with sophism.  It's about power, not about logic, in any case.  But do note that if we followed Mr. Pearce's rule of wifely submission no married woman with a living husband could ever truly take a leadership role in the society.  Because the real power would be in the hands of her husband.  How could we vote for a female married politician if it's really her husband we are voting for?  And going backwards in history, how could married women have credit cards and bank accounts in their own names if it's really their husbands who control everything they do?

To his credit, Mr. Pearce also argues that husbands shouldn't exploit all this power they are given over their wives.  But it's hard to see what actual restraints his religious beliefs would put on husbands who do just that.  After all, the wives are supposed to be obedient.  If the husband becomes a bully or an abuser, what is the obedient wife to do?  Relinquish her obedience?  Who decides when she can do that, because clearly she cannot make the decision.

The model Mr. Pearce advocates is a popular religious model, both in right-wing Christianity and in much of Islam.  It crops up in other religions, too. It's also a very dangerous model because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Not to mention the fact that such hierarchical marriages sound extremely suffocating and confining, even for the supposed leaders if they take their responsibilities seriously.

But the real reason I write about these opinions (not terribly common among the general population in the US or in the legal systems of any country today) is that the requirement of absolute and permanent voluntary submission by the wives at home is incompatible with general gender equality.

As a complete aside, isn't Mr. Pearce's argument interesting when set in the wider conservative talk topic of the day which is the importance of marriage in combating poverty?  We should ask more often what conservatives mean by traditional marriage, turn some stones over to see what might be crawling under them.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Speed Blogging, 1/21/2014. On Poultry Inspections, Guns And How Social Media May Affect Our Thinking

Contents:  Gun violence, sexual violence

1.  What could possibly go wrong by letting workers of the factory, rather than outside inspectors,  be in charge of more poultry inspections against salmonella?  It's a win-win!  Cheaper chickens in every pot, more money for the firms and lower taxes!

When salmonella next strikes, the politicians who fix the problem could get accolades and bouquets of roses for being decisive and caring.

I was unable to find more about this proposal, but it's a good teaching example of an odd political failing when it comes to prevention.  Politicians tend not to get punished for removing proper prevention, but they can get rewarded for fixing the problems their own lack of prevention created.  Say a politician spends money on making traffic intersections safer and prevents a lot of fatal accidents because of that.  In the next election cycle she or he may not get re-elected because of all that money spent on preventing deaths.  The prevented deaths are invisible, the money expenditure is not.

2.  Meanwhile, on educational institutions and guns:

 One person was shot to death on the campus of Indiana's Purdue University on Tuesday, and a male suspect was in custody, authorities said.

The frequency of shootings at schools and universities in the United States is fueling the national debate over gun control. On Monday night, a student was shot and critically wounded outside an athletic center at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
Last week alone, two students were shot at a high school in Philadelphia, another was shot at a high school in Albany, New York, and two students were shot at a middle school in New Mexico.
Gun ownership laws in the United States have come under intense scrutiny since December 2012, when 20 young children and six educators were shot dead by a long gunman at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
In other gun news for just the last few months, we have toddlers killing themselves or other toddlers with guns and we have cases like this one, as well as the Renisha McBride case and so on and so on.

3. This is an interesting piece about the online use of the word "rape" and the difficulties in studying the meaning and prevalence of rape threats, say.  A snippet worth thinking about:

This is changing how we talk to one another. To have the attention of anyone at all, people are increasingly forced to push their communications – whether text or images – out of any shadow of subtlety. It needs to be the brightest star in a sky of very bright stars and busy astronomers with short attention spans. For Oxford neurologist Susan Greenfield, this is a world of 'yuck and wow'. She fears that it could be literally re-wiring our brains. Her warning was itself of course duly turned into a sort of meme, 'yakawow'. You can buy the t-shirt.

The use of rape on Twitter has to at least partly slot into this wider process where taboos – including rape - are being ruthlessly desensitised online. This is creating a more permissive cultural backdrop against which rape threats are made. The threat itself however remains undiminished in either its gravity or the harm it can do to the recipient. The worst-case scenario is that, desensitised to the word, we become desensitised to the act.
I guess the question I have about this is the alternative theory:  That the use of desensitizing language may always have been common among certain sub-groups or within certain conversations, such as in locker-rooms or bars, and that what we see on Twitter, say, is simply seeing that happen.

That's not necessarily the theory I support.  I suspect that the social media do have some impact on our ability to view the other participants as fully human, partly, because we are suddenly able to discuss things with strangers with whom we have no shared history, and partly, because talking to a screen makes it easier to forget that real people hide behind it.

Still, the possibility that our brains are being affected by all this is certainly worth some research.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Two Stories About Gender Politics

First Story:   Misogyny

The UK Telegraph posted an opinion column on misogyny in 2013.  One could criticize it because of the great difficulties of measuring misogyny on a global level or changes in it or whether horrible gang rapes in India, the rising gender gap in wages in the UK or the hostility shown towards women on the Internet can even be made commensurate on some easily interpreted scale.

But it IS an opinion piece, and it DOES point out that anyone who is a woman can face that thing JUST because she is a woman and for no other reason.  "That thing" could be misogyny, as in hatred of women, or perhaps just mild contempt towards women or perhaps the objectification of women as mere providers of sexual and reproductive services or as creatures who are supposed to be confined to the homes and not seen or heard outside it.  But whatever it is, it is real, among some fraction of people, both men and women, though probably more commonly among men.  And whatever it is, there is an element of ranking in it, and the ranking is based on one's gender, nothing else.

Here's where the fun enters the picture:  Guess what the most common topic of conversation in the comments attached to the piece are?  If you guessed misandry (the hatred of men) you get a very large box of chocolate truffles and a position as one of my priests or priestesses.  That's because the comments seem to have been astroturfed by certain groups of MRAs.

And yes, I know I shouldn't read comments to any articles about feminism or misogyny etc.  Is there a twelve-step support group for comment readers?

We also need a twelve-step group for those who don't understand that discussing one topic doesn't mean that the opposite topic should also be discussed (or that it is obviously, and without evidence, an equally large or larger concern) or that such an omission is tantamount to misandry.  We need a twelve-step programs to teach people about why how often something happens does matter.  We need to teach people that omitting all the data which doesn't support your position while presenting anecdotal evidence to support it is not the proper way to generalize about something.  And we need to find a way for me to ultimately accept that none of this is likely to happen, because the debate is about power, not about facts.   Sigh.

Second Story:  The Emasculation of Men

And power is the proper framework for understanding why Fox News runs a script saying "The Wussification of Men" while interviewing an Australian writer who has come out with the book about the death of manly men and what it means.*   :

Australian author, Nick Adams was the guest for this segment and he basically said that feminism (and for some reason, the government) is purposely emasculating men. And apparently, this isn’t happening in just the United States!
Even in Australia, we’ve gone from wrestling with crocodiles to wrestling with lattes.
Presumably the number one hobby of all Australian men once was wrestling crocodiles.

But more importantly, Nick Adams believes that what being a man means is stuff like wrestling crocodiles and  although he also believes that men are like that in an innate sense, the society still manages to turn them into wussies!  Feminists are all-powerful!  Feminists can even overpower the "natural" definition of manliness.   That is pretty illogical.  Either the "natural" definition of manliness is not natural at all or what Adams talks about is rubbish.  Well, both really. 

But there's more!  Is feminism a threat to national security?  Adams:

Absolutely, without a doubt. I think it has wide-ranging implications. Weeps and wussies deliver mediocrity. And men win. And what America’s always been about is winning. So I think it’s pivotal to the health of the country.
Now put that in your pipe and smoke it!  It's men who win, not weeps and wussies, and weeps and wussies are men which make Nick Adams think about those other kinds of humans, women.   Who naturally should be weeps and wussies.

And even more:  The other guy in the video asks if all this is about "whitewashing" the differences between genders and about trying to make everyone be neutral!  Let's return to those innate sex differences.  Except then the same guy asks how do we teach boys to be boys and girls to be girls to fight this wussification tendency.  So we are right back in that same confused thinking where manly men and wussy women are innate categories but we have to worry about how to create them  in child-rearing.

I could do a proper analysis of all this but it's not worth it, because the story is not about facts.  It's about who is allowed to be on top in the societal power ladders, applied to the question of gender.  And that Fox News has this story is just another arrow in their quiver in the war against women.  Because whatever evil things one might wish to assign to feminism, it's not feminists who attack men talking football or who attack hunters or who insist on banning crocodile wrestling.
*And the reference to doing the dishes at the beginning of this section is very illuminating, because it implies that manly men don't have to care about doing the dishes.  This is intended as humor, but it's inserted for a reason.  If we take it as part of the whole message, then we are told that men are innately unable to care about doing the dishes, whereas women somehow are assumed to be the reverse.  

On Martin Luther King Day 2014

An aspect worth learning about is Martin Luther King's economic arguments.  Here's one article which discusses them:

Today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is most often remembered as a crusader for racial equality, not economic justice. But those struggles were inextricably intertwined for the civil rights leader, whose 85th birthday is being honored this weekend. Even during his upbringing, as he wrote in 1958 [PDF], he knew “that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice.”

He also referred to global economic inequalities in at least this speech.  When I follow various discussions about racism, white privilege and so on,  I often crave more attention on the economic infrastructures and how to fix them. 

Changing the way US schools are funded is not a glittery and exciting topic, but it would go a long way towards making sure that all children, whatever their race, ethnicity and family income, would get to start the marathons of life at the same starting line.  I want to see school funding detached from local property taxes, because those create an instant feedback loop from poor areas to poor schools (and from wealthy areas to wealthy schools).  Indeed, I'd like to see positive discrimination for poor schools:  More teacher pay, more computers, more after-school activities, to compensate for the problems poor families face.  And programs like Head Start should be supported, not attacked.  If a particular program doesn't work, fix it, don't demolish it.

Changing the way the labor markets function, putting more effort into guaranteeing living wages, annual vacations, parental leaves, affordable daycare and so on, would do a lot to reduce the daily struggles of the poor, and because a larger percentage of blacks are poor, this would serve to reduce the racial differences, too*. 

Accepting that anti-discrimination programs are needed, rather than fighting them, would make the systems of getting jobs and keeping them fairer.  Unionization matters.  That unions are dying in the US means that the relative power of the employers is increasing.   The conservative argument that workers or job applicants can just negotiate their individual deals with the firms doesn't even work for the more educated and powerful workers, and it certainly doesn't work for a janitor or a supermarket cashier.  We need organized activity on the worker side of the labor markets.  We actually need that on the global level, given that large firms are now globalized.

Why does this matter for racial and ethnic differences and racism?  Because it partially addresses the very infrastructure which also contributes to different outcomes by race.  As long as the different income classes show different percentages of people from various races/ethnic groups, the economic problems remain intertwined with the racial problems.  Addressing the economic problems directly is a very important part of the wider dream Martin Luther King had.
*This is because to some extent the wealthier individuals and families can negotiate some of these benefits.  Low-income workers cannot.