racism is merely a tool used by a small elite group

I think, that racism is merely a tool used by a small elite group, those whose primary purpose is class control. Those with the money, land, political power and all the political representation that money can buy.
“If every American thought about class instead of race for only five minutes a day, some revolutionary things might happen. And by ‘thinking’ about class, I don’t mean in a detached, role-playing, Marxist Trivial Pursuit sort of way. I mean seriously pondering the degree to which inherited economic status affects actual human lives.”
“White people in America have a lot more in common with Black people than with rich people, but rich people have pitted White people against Black people in an effort to divert their attention away from the truth.”
“The Poor White Trash is descended from Celtic criminals deported to America. He is bony and lank, with a sallow complexion, awkward manners, and a natural stupidity or dullness of intellect that almost surpasses belief.”

Class Paradigm: Love of Money is the Root of All American Evils

The Class Paradigm states that social divisions that assume a distinctively racial or ethnic character can be attributed to or explained principally by reference to economic structures and processes and, within this paradigm, race is explained by reference to economic processes. The effects of racism are real and they are harmful. And they are self-perpetuated within society by those of us in the “common” group of people, and have been self-perpetuated so long that few remember that historically, the people who threw the first pitch in order to get the ball rolling were those select few with the land, property and education, who wanted to keep it that way. Stereotypes affect inter-group relations, even when individuals do not necessarily believe in them. In addition, stereotypes continue to define groups and reinforce standing divisions. All that is required of the elite is an occasional stirring of the pot to maintain the divide. A crucial ingredient to overthrowing the historical domination of all minorities is the interrelated cooperation between social movements for change.

Political power is measured by access to educational and job opportunities, political representation and respect received. Racism here is a tool, rather than a root, of the political and economic imbalance in America, part and parcel to the elite system of domination. the use of the term White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy is as an illustration of the interlocking systems of domination: race, class and gender.

The History of White Trash

Before British slavers traveled to Africa’s western coast to buy Black slaves from African chieftains, they sold their own white working class kindred from the streets and towns of England, into slavery. Tens of thousands of these white slaves were kidnapped children. During the voyage to America it was customary to keep the white slaves below deck for the entire nine to twelve week journey. A white slave would be confined to a hole not more than sixteen feet long, chained with 50 other men to a board, with padlocked collars around their necks. The weeks of confinement below deck in the ship’s stifling hold often resulted in outbreaks of contagious disease which would sweep through the “cargo” of white “freight” chained in the bowels of the ship.


– Republican Party Handbill from the presidential election of 1856

During the Industrial Revolution, numbered among the laborers were white children as young as six years of age, locked in the factories for anywhere from ten to fourteen hours per day, and many were mangled by the factory equipment. These children wounded and crippled in the factories were fired without recompense. Children late to work or who fell asleep during the long, grueling shifts were often beaten.

The division between those Americans considered white is evidence of a caste system dating back to early American society. The individual’s status was basically birth-ascribed, inherited, immutable, permanent and fixed. Just as the category of white has been socially constructed, so have the levels of opportunity been fixed by socially constructed ideals, depending upon the opportunities to be regulated by those who are members of the dominant group. bell hooks challenges that solidarity does not need to be rooted in shared experience; it can be based on one’s political and ethical understanding of racism and one’s rejection of domination. This holds true not only for groups of traditionally categorized minorities (those of “color”), but also encompasses as well the group of whites on the lowest rung of the economic scale. In fact, because of the similar experiences, this group and black people have a lesser wall to jump between them than any two other minority groups in America. Racism is not oppressive because of prejudice, but because it is a system which promotes domination and subjugation. The system is necessary to those controlling power and resources.

Poor White Trash: A Classist/Racist Conglomeration

“White trash” is a label identifying a class of whiteness that does not signify the privilege and social power that has been an across-the-board rhetoric in American society regarding the white or Euro-American race. The very existence of this classification — despite the fact that the term is generally delivered in both conversation and literature in a “tongue in cheek” demeanor — punches holes in the myth of classlessness in America, especially classlessness among Euro-Americans. As such, white trash is a threat to hegemonic whiteness in the U.S. Not only are whites not a homogenous group unto themselves but also there is a large class divide between groups of those labeled under the white category. The economically lower class group of white Americans has more in common, historically and currently, in economic factors and access to education and resources, as well as its historical integration into American society from inception, with other minority groups of color than it does with other whites supposedly in the same racial group. This points directly toward the idea that race is not the dividing factor in society as much as is class. Not that race does not divide; but that it divides the lower class against itself, perpetuated by and for the purposes of an elite few, who control most of the money, the land and other material resources, and who would like very much to keep it that way. At a personal level, race is in the eye of the beholder, at a political level, race is in the service of economic and social privilege. And race differences at a personal level have been contrived and perpetuated in order to give us some “common sense” view of how the world is ordered.

Labeling someone as “poor white trash” is a paradox — a mix of connotations that are at odds with themselves in American rhetoric and thought. The entire derisive term is “poor white trash.” Rather than abbreviating itself to “poor white” however, it has become “white trash.” This takes the emphasis off the economic difficulties, and places the importance on the moral qualities of those comprising the make up of the social group. In actuality, the real basis for the separation is class and, as I’m attemptting to reflect in this work, the real motivation for racial distinctions has also been, at its root, the class separation between the elite and the working class, the “haves” and the “have-nots”.

This is not an attempt — in the way that the use of terms such as “color-blind society” are often an attempt — to counter racial differentiations as inconsequential in their historical effects due to the socially constructed nature of their origins, nor is it an attempt to deny the existence nor the validity of ethnic and cultural differences among different peoples. Often, there is a one or the other rhetoric which seems to state that if one is white, one must choose between being a self-despising liberal assuming all blame for historical consequences to racism issues, or being a fascist, white supremacist in collusion with nebulous racist powers. This is merely another attempt to deflect focus away from the real perpetrators of the actual problem: the elite whose issues, again, do not stem from racism so much as from issues of retaining power.

Rather, I am stating that if it were not for the existence of those in control, and their

need/desire to retain control of power, including wealth, resources and land, that there simply would have been no need at all to racially categorize and thereby divide against itself the lower economic class of people. That this was a tool to aid in providing that no group would have the numbers to take control for itself, nor have the cohesiveness to form a revolution for the purpose of more equitably dividing resources (due to internal class warring), thereby ensuring a more equitable opportunity and outcome for the majority of individuals. Any such redistribution would certainly threaten the elite, ruling class, the small percentile of those who hold the majority of wealth and property. Omi and Winant claim that efforts to explain race as purely social cannot account for the origins, patterning and transformation of racial difference. I think, however, that racism is merely a tool used by those whose primary purpose is class control. Nationalist projects, which stress the incompatibility of racially defined group identity with the legacy of white supremacy, advocate a social structural solution of complete or partial separation. The point that is missed here is that this is exactly the sort of attitude the ruling elite are constantly perpetuating, separation in the lower economic classes, which allows victory only on their terms and for their ends. Racism would have no need of existence if not for Classism.

White Trash: A Marginalized Minority

Since the Civil Rights movement, white Americans have shouldered a lot of well-deserved guilt about centuries of abuse toward minorities. Well-deserved, because despite the fact that this sort of divide was introduced and perpetuated by a small, elite group, the common individual does hold the responsibility for their own actions, and for ensuring, by any means necessary, that they acquire the literacy required to learn critical thinking skills in their own lives. Because of the mass-follower mentality of society, people have individually chosen to join in actions that have hurt many, many other people, based on a system of classification they never bothered to reflect upon before taking action. Coupled with this guilt, there exists a basic craving for absolution: the desire to feel forgiveness and move forward. The white man does not know how to deal with his past as master and racist. He did not own slaves, maybe no one in his lineage owned slaves, but the color of his skin, he is told again and again, has made his heritage privy to power and control over other men’s lives.

“I am unable to reduce my whiteness to a brief answer to the question of ‘what does it mean to be a white male?’ My whiteness is not the one of money, it is not the one of privilege; my whiteness is more a memory of food stamps and a single mother. How does this experience figure in the picture of dominant white culture? It doesn’t: the poor white is missing.”

The worst historical behavioral attributes of whites have been taken and placed on those whites most powerless and isolated in society. They can be blamed and hated for all America’s crimes against humanity; after all, aren’t all whites privy to power and privilege and a “say so” in the goings-on of American society? I think not. Upper class whites can join with blacks and other minorities, thereby alleviating their guilt, taking attention off themselves and bonding with minorities against poor whites. The elite classes are still pitting the two groups against each other; they have merely switched sides. It’s no wonder that whites have the biggest suicide rates among ethnic groups. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Saying that working class whites are in a tough spot is not to deny their role in debasing other minority groups in society. However, the relationship between poor whites and slaves, or poor whites and poor blacks is a multi-layered one. Poor whites and poor blacks historically and presently have much more in common than either uppers class. Historically, particularly after the Civil War, poor whites and poor blacks held a similar position in society. They typically worked as sharecroppers and tenant farmers, with no possibility for land ownership or education, constantly under the control of land owning wealthy whites. The upper class whites were and still are aware of the power that working class whites and blacks would have if they were to join forces in political and social affairs. Therefore it has been beneficial to upper class whites to encourage animosity between these two groups of people. With the obvious skin color distinction, the task was not difficult.

The Perpetuation of Poverty by Division of Classes as Races

The jobs performed by working class people of all skin color are looked down upon by the educated elite, which places one in the lower level of social hierarchy. The job complaints of these folks do not center on board meetings or paying off college loans. The issues are more likely to be on-the-job injuries and deaths, lack of opportunity for promotion, protecting seniority and pay rates, and hopefully providing health care for families.

This class should theoretically be distinguishable for economic reasons. But our capitalist society teaches that we all get what we deserve — the rich and the poor. This is further complicated if one is white. The cultural baggage of white skin includes the myths of power, education, wealth and opportunity.

If one is white and does not succeed there are no social excuses, though they exist for all other marginalized groups. The implied problem must therefore be laziness or stupidity. Yet the marginalization of this group is not so different. These people also live within a social construct that teaches different values and offers no visible option for a path different from that of their family and social structure. And there are no social organizations offering “poor white” scholarships, or “poor white” loan programs, nor are wealthy whites willing to mentor the working class white’s children by helping with college or job training. Being white, in some sense, actually harms their chance of receiving aid or encouragement if they choose to pursue education or a different lifestyle from that of their families.

The more you educate yourself, the further you get emotionally and culturally from the support of your family and friends; the less you have in common with your socializing groups. You despise them and yourself. The pressure is intolerable. Those that do succeed usually have a mentor to help along this socialization and into other circles of influence. It’s commonly called “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps”. Conversely, in order to be an enlightened witness to the historical effects of domination and, hopefully, to the future rectification of this system, is a transformation which involves literacy and critical thinking, only obtainable through a dogged pursuit of much-needed educational opportunities.

When America thinks of the poor, the instant assumption is some other minority group. The percentage of the black or Hispanic populations that fall into the poorest class is certainly higher than the percentage of the white population. Yet when considering the actual number of poor of all races in America, 48.1% are white. Most of the poor people in the country are white and their incomes have been in outright decline for more than twenty years, particularly compared with minority and women’s incomes, which have risen steadily. Not to say that the narrowing of the gap between racial incomes was not needed, but what about some narrowing between the incomes of the employer versus the employee; the elite and the “commoner”? Certain data from the U.S. Census Bureau reflects that in 1999, only 8.5 percent of whites had obtained an advanced degree, and only 4.6 percent of blacks had done so. This shows a definite marked difference between attainment of this level of education as categorized by race, reflecting the success even today of the racial differentiation tool used by the elite class in order to perpetuate separation between peoples. With this kind of data, we can interpret it in various ways, but most often it is interpreted as a problem between races, rather than a problem between power-holders and non-power-holders.

The existence of racially mixed persons challenges long-held notions about the biological, moral and social meaning of race. Perhaps this recognition of mixed-race individuals will be part of the solution to the continued separation of people from one another by race. We cannot forget that, in analyzing data from various governmental studies that the government first requires an individual to identify with a race before being counted. In addition, it reflects the sad state of affairs when over 90% of people, regardless of race, are unable to access the resources (mentorship, finances, even early socialization) to further themselves and their families’ economic standing. This does not, however, illegitimate the fact that there is a notable difference in incomes between black Americans and white Americans, even at the same educational level. We must repair all the effects of discrimination in order to move forward, and the effects of each tool used to divide and conquer the mass of American people must be addressed (racist divide being a major one) within the context of and with understanding of the primary purpose of division — to keep the lower class at war with itself, in order to deflect responsibility from those who hold all the cards.

“Keeping Us In Our Places”

Poverty is not just the impersonal result of profit margins: it is a weapon. It is how elite society punishes all minorities for their existence, but nevertheless keeps the American Dream alive through reinforcing rhetoric to keep us in our place, which is all about limiting the number of hands in the money pot, but ensuring there are enough of us common folk to support the appetites of the elite.

“Sometimes you should think in your head and try naming the classes of people. On the bottom of the heap is most colored people, not the kind you would have been if you had been one, but most of them; then next to themnot above, just away fromwere the white-trash; then above them are the home-owners, and above them the home-and-land owners, to which you belong. Above you are people with a lot of money and much bigger houses and much more land.

“But here the complexity of it would begin to bear in on you, for some of the people with a lot of money were common and ought to be below you and some of the people who had good blood had lost their money and had to rent, and then there were people of colored who owned their homes and land as well… Usually by the time you even finish this, all the classes of people will be moiling and roiling around in your head, and you might wish they were all crammed in together in a box car, being ridden off to be put in a gas oven.”

Does this Sound like something that was done years ago?


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