Dmitriy T.M. sent in the clip below in which Senator Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina) explains that health care reform will be bad because it will require his state to subsidize health care for poor people… and black people:

Graham’s mistake is a common one and one that contributes to penalizing and inhumane treatment of the poor in the U.S. He is conflating race and class. White people = not poor; black people = poor. Therefore, a high percentage of black people = a drain on society.

Here’s the reality: a higher percentage of the black population is poor, compared to whites. BUT, and this is a big “but,” most poor people are white because white people make up between 70 and 75% of the U.S. population.

However, a belief that that poor people tend to be black and black people tend to be poor is useful for those who want to stifle any redistribution of wealth. The conflation means that opposition to policies designed to alleviate the suffering of poverty can be based in both classism and racism.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.