Second footnote I've always thought the following story, which I heard from my father, a very perceptive one:
The Lone Ranger, with his faithful Indian companion Tonto, is fleeing from a band of Comanches intent on taking his scalp. As they ride furiously over a pass, they confront another band of Apaches, evidently with the same intent. They are hopelessly trapped.
The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, "Well, old friend, looks as if we've about had it."
Tonto replies, "What you mean 'we,' paleface?"
Like Tonto in the story, a middle-class white liberal always has the option of deciding to worry about something other than the "underclass" problem. A middle-class black, not so much.
This reminds me of the discussion two posts below which is related to Washington Insiderism and political addiction. I always thought that I was a political addict, then I met the young Washington insiders at a party at Michael Froomkin's house.
I recall him asking me if I knew the people there. I was embarrassed to say I didn't. He replied "neither do I. I was at a get together for people doing summer jobs on capitol hill and generally invited people here and they all came."
This was 1981. He said "it looks like we are in real trouble" and one of the mystery guests said "what do you mean we pale face." He was a Republican interning with the Reagan administration's liason to new right groups (and Native Americans). Thus presumably a very quick thinking wingnut with a sense of humor (I have no idea what happened to him).
Michael looked puzzled then said "ah yes your boss is part Native American" and the guy said that, yes he is one thirtysecond Native American so they tacked that on to his title which is silly since real Native Americans consider 1/32 about zero.
Then someone else said that the 1/32nd Native American was a racist causing considerable tension. The apparently shoot from the hip* mystery guest went on to demonstrate casual knowledge of dozens of people.
I was shocked. I had not often been totally totally outclassed in political nerd-dom.
I said nothing and wouldn't have even if I had known about the convincing critique of insiderdom (this was 81 and Washington hating was a sport for Republicans). Still it would have made me feel better to have read Atrios.
*accidental lone ranger related metaphor (honest).