I have to say, it’s been a few centuries now, and white folks — particularly the poor ones, but also a number of the higher classes — have exceeded expectations by remaining committed to (and even doubling down on) the false divisions that ensure that they will get taken for everything they’re worth. Good job, white America! Without your support and buy-in, the super-elite might not have been able to fleece everyone else, and then we’d all be living in some socialist hell-hole where people had good wages, childcare, healthcare, and low debt. But so far we’ve dodged that bullet.
If the wealthy white landowners of the 18th and 19th centuries hadn’t been able to convince the working class whites that they could someday, maybe, become wealthy if they only supported rich folks, the working classes of all races and creeds might have joined up and advocated for their common interests. They might even have declined to fight a war that could only benefit wealthy landowners and their desire for free labor. (Free labor is hard to compete with, so working class whites had to find other avenues of making a living.) Instead, however, the average white man took the offered scapegoat and decided that it was okay to be eating turnips every day as long as he was better off than a black man.
Over the years, a fair chunk of white society stuck has stuck with this deal. They would look down on black people, brown people, red Native people, Italian people, Irish people, Chinese people — whoever was convenient at the moment — and as long as they were better off economically, even if they were eating turnips and shitting in buckets, then they were good with the rich folk helping themselves to all of the country’s resources, money, luxury yachts, and more money.
Part of this deal was that the white person had to be happy with eating their turnips, their lowering wages, their lack of healthcare, their debt to the company store, or whatever, but they would have the understanding that, with super-hard work, they could pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become just as rich as the silk-attired dandy they admired in the movies or on TV. They were American, so it could happen. If it didn’t happen to a white person, that was “bad luck.” But if it didn’t happen to a black or similarly pigmented individual, it was due to “laziness.” Because of this, the white folk who stuck with the deal would always say, “No way” to any kind of government help for impoverished turnip-eaters, because then a “lazy” person of color might get some of that, and clearly they wouldn’t deserve it. It may be true that a white impoverished turnip-eater might have gotten some of that help, but white people were tough, and they didn’t mind sticking it out to prove a point. Like I said, they’ve done their job really well.
Over the years, the economic distance between the white guy and the darker-pigmented guy has shrunk. It’s become rather difficult to tell that the white guy is better off than the person of color. In fact, some of the white folks have noticed that they’re not better off than some people of color. This has been a cause of some little bother and consternation with regard to the deal with the rich guys. Fortunately, the rich guys had a plan: immigrants. Yes, when the white folk think of immigrants, they think of brown people digging in the dirt for a dollar a day. That scenario is of course far worse than living in a trailer on debt, so the opportunity to look down on others and scream for their removal from the country has been accepted with quite a lot of success.
Now when the government offers to take away more healthcare and some small measure of retirement security, white folks can rest happy, knowing that these brown noncitizens won’t be getting any of it, either, so that’s okay. They’ve gotten quite good at eating turnips and doing less with even less. They’re happy with their trade-off. The rich may grow fat on the white folks’ debt, skim off all they want from the government, and poison the town well, but at least none of those other people will benefit from shared social resources, either. Potholes aren’t a problem when you can’t afford a car, and healthcare is overrated. Besides, turnips are good for you.
Yes, good job, white America. If you had realized that your common interests lay with the black, brown, red, Italian, Irish, Chinese, etc., we’d have a more egalitarian society with a safety net that would’ve helped everyone and put limits on how much the rich could cannibalize. But you stuck with the deal, in spite of your own best interests! Corporate capitalism may eat itself, but it will eat you first. I stand amazed at your dedication to the rich man’s deal.