A Vanderbilt professor says rural Tennesseans are too racially prejudiced to realize Obamacare is good for them.
That professor, Jonathan Metzl, told Boston University Today that he knows this about rural Tennesseans because he’s interviewed them.
As The Tennessee Star previously reported, Metzl recently wrote a book called , Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland.
In the book, Metzl said people in the United States refuse to pass more gun control laws because of white supremacy and “white privilege. He also said white Tennessee residents endanger their own health by rejecting government health care programs and by embracing pro-gun and anti-tax policies.
Metzl spoke to BU Today this week to promote his book.
“One of the most jarring parts of the research was talking to people in rural Tennessee. These were white Americans who would have really benefited from healthcare reform, but who were loath to support Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act because they didn’t want, as they put it, Mexicans and welfare queens and other minorities to benefit. For them, there was an ideology that was more powerful than self-preservation,” Metzl said.
“I think there was this liberal fantasy that the minute Republicans saw the effects of Trump’s policies they would wake up and change course. But I spoke with people who were literally laying their lives down on the line in support of a racial hierarchy they felt was threatened. Issues like healthcare, education, and guns have centuries-old histories of racial resentment. Offering everyone healthcare won’t change people’s opinions if you don’t address the underlying racial issues. Things are far more complicated than the liberal vision of common sense when race is involved.”
Metzl also told the website that Tennessee’s refusal to expand Medicaid cost every single white resident two weeks of life.
As The Star reported in March, Metzl’s book focused on three specific areas — Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, school funding in Kansas, and gun laws in Missouri.
“In his book, Metzl explains that today’s skepticism toward gun control and government programs has a long history in the segregated South and Midwest, where gun ownership, affordable health care and quality education were considered privileges that only whites deserved,” according to a Vanderbilt press release about the book.
“Likewise, those attitudes reflected a view of whiteness that emphasized extreme self-reliance—the idea that individuals can and should be solely responsible for the health, safety and well-being of themselves and their loved ones.”
Quoting Metzl, the Vanderbilt press release said this view is linked to backlash following the U.S. Civil War and federal interventions to end segregation. Metzl also said these attitudes resurged following the election of former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Metzl has said “whiteness itself has become a negative health indicator.”
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