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Once Again, For the Media, “Working Class” Means White Men

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A man walks past a painted building in Youngstown, Ohio November 21, 2009.  Youngstown has 4,500 vacant structures in a city of about 75,000 people, and about 22,000 vacant parcels of land.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES CITYSCAPE SOCIETY) - RTXR04Y

The New York Times decided to run a long profile of workers in Youngstown to get at the appeal of Donald Trump. It’s the typical article of angry workers who see Trump as a way to lash out and angry workers who see Trump for what he is. But there’s one really big problem here. Allow me to embed a tweet from my betters:

Once again, for the media, working class means white guy. Not only is this a huge blind spot that reinforces the idea of “real voters” as working class white men, but it also completely ignores Youngstown. That city is 47 percent white and 45 percent African-Americans. Are black people in Youngstown not working class? I think we know the answer to this question. African-Americans made up a large percentage of workers in the steel mills, and did before you had large-scale black employment in most heavy industry. In 1977, 23 percent of steel workers at the largest Youngstown steel mill were African-American or Latino. You simply cannot talk about the working class in a city like Youngstown without talking to African-Americans. And of course, it’s not as if the only real workers are those who may have worked in a steel mill in the past or who still work in the GM plant in nearby Lordstown. The working class is a whole lot more than white men. It’s a disservice to readers and to both journalism and political analysis to assume otherwise. Yet it happens all the time.

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