Race and Class Reductionism

I see the problem an ocean apart, but seems to me that one of the categories that is missing in most discussion is the poor whites, especially in places like the “rust belt”.

White people that are living paycheck to paycheck are the same problem of black or natives living paycheck to paycheck, because they are people.

In the USA the race problem is thrown in every sauce and this make it worse compared to Marine Le Pen or Giorgia Meloni parties in Europe.

The progressives should solve the problem of the poor people, and this will solve the neofascism resurgence.

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As addressed very well by Body Count:

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It isn’t missing, any work done for them is deliberately ignored by people with an interest in divide and rule. Fuck class reductionism.

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That’s likely because it’s been taken as a given in the U.S. for decades now. It’s now one of Slavoj Zizek’s “unknown knowns” in American society – a known problem that we none-the-less refuse to acknowledge lest we have to solve it.

Over the past decade or so, that issue has moved beyond blue-collar white workers in dead-end towns. Whether it’s through the “gig economy” or other means, “chickenisation” is now coming for middle-class and some professional workers.

It’s a particularly stupid version of the already idiotic nationalism, provincialism, xenophobia, and ethnic/linguistic/sectarian hatred that’s been a European specialty for centuries.

But make no mistake, when it comes to class exploitation in America PoC, especially African-Americans, always get the worst of it first. Racial justice in the U.S. is deeply intertwined with economic justice and addressing the former only strengthens those pushing for the latter.

In the U.S., there has been a massive and well-funded effort over the past 40 years by mainstream conservatives (and Third-Way Dems) to make sure that progressives will never be able to solve the core problems of poor people – or really of anyone outside the top 10% in terms of wealth and/or income.

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No. This is patently, demonstrably false. Poverty is a problem, yes, but white poor people still have immensely more privilege than poor black people. Are you not paying attention? Poor white people got their own president who then basically legalized murder for them for 4 years.

“It’s all about money, not race” is a classic dodge by poor conservatives who want to claim they are the real victims here. This is a powerful form of privilege blindness because while being poor really sucks (I’ve been there) white people still can’t imagine how much harder it is to be black.

Because, and pay attention to this part, everything in America is about race. It’s a deeply racist country and that affects every institution here. People who say things like you are saying have never lived here. I’m not American, and I might have said what you are saying before living here for 20 years. Now I see that it is all about race in this country.

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I don’t really think they are missing. The democrats talk ENDLESSLY about the white working class, they just say working class as if the only working class people in America.

Because if you are a person of color, it impacts every aspect of your life in ways that white people, even working class white people, aren’t as impacted.

We shouldn’t ignore specificity of issues faced by all working class people. For example, free college, greater protections for workers, and a bigger minimum wage is not going to stop the GDC here in GA from systematically abusing Ashley Diamond, a Black trans woman who has been put into a men’s prison after the state was sued once for doing this. It’s not going to stop a guard from locking her in a room and repeatedly raping her. Please tell me how those things help her right now?

So not a single person here thinks we should ignore class. We should NOT pretend that fixing class will fix everything. :woman_shrugging: [ETA] We should also recognize that class isn’t just white men, but that in America (and the world) our class system is far more complicated than that, and includes categories of race, gender, sexuality, etc. if we think that economic changes will address that, then we miss helping millions of Americans.

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I think thay the economy and welfare are a big part of the problem, but not the only one. I agree that being black and poor is worse than being white and poor. But if a man can’t afford a dentist or has to choose to starve or to repair his car is over the suckage event horizon, having to fear the cops and other problems aggravate the problem. IT’ not all about money but having a national health system, decent public schools a more fair taxation and other equality policies could help all.
Poor white men have an easy escape route, unfortunately, that is fascism.

And yes being an Italian white men makes me difficult to think about how is being an African American. Actually I have only one African American friend that for some reason prefers Turin to San Diego so I can’t have a significant opinion.

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It’s been sixty years since civil rights became law, but there are a lot of Americans who are still being raised with the continuing notion that since they are white, and 3 or 10 generations away from being immigrants, they are entitled to The American Dream. I don’t understand the cognitive dissonance they live with, worshipping their oppressors.
Class in America may not be codified like it is in other countries, but it’s a cultural reality, and the old upper, middle, and lower class labels are losing their definitions. There’s a super stratification between the ones at the top, the layer of rich under that, the middle class, and the other half of the population. As mentioned upstream, the gig economy has turned a lot of the middle class into the working poor.

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How do you fix this?

Statistically, being Black and rich is worse than being white and poor, in the US. Life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, incarceration rates, murder-by-cop; pick a statistic, same outcome.

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Well take any discussion about race in the United States and look at the obvious flawed rhetoric in just discussing the topic brings. There’s several levels of reactions by (white) people in the media:

  • Black people are the problem in racism
  • Discussing race is in itself racist so you are the real racist
  • Legally there isn’t racism, therefore the work is done and the problem is a bootstraps one
  • I understand that, but what about white people?
  • The problem is class not race
  • Racism is a problem, but you should cater to poor whites to fix the class issues to help everyone
  • The anger is justified, but Black people are expressing it wrong and at the wrong time

And many more. Most of them designed not necessarily to dismiss the topic as non-existent, but in the attempt to pivot away from addressing race and onto a more comfortable topic - ironically many times that topic is “white people stereotyping black people.” But since there is a large number of very popular figures across ideologies who outright refuse to even address race outside of casually agreeing or dismissing it as a problem, there isn’t even an attempt to fix it for real. People refuse to discuss solutions to redlining, refuse to discuss a solution to the stripping of PoCs from their land, and refuse to discuss solutions to the clear and present issues resulting in literally the largest and most popular sustained protest movement in the history of the US and possibly the world. So the first step in fixing it is doing more than nodding along or ignoring it because it has left the white nationalists unaddressed in equal measure because race is a uncomfortable subject.

I think populists leaning on class issues bugs me the most (pragmatic or not), because while bettering the issues plaguing the working class makes life better for all people the exact same thing is true about putting energy in dismantling racial injustices in the United States. Racism hurts white people too, it’s not something that only hurts PoCs. The people in the Rust Belt people want to cater to literally cratered their own unions to wall off the union to black people, and their voting for “law and order” and “closed borders” arrested their own family members in an opioid epidemic and themselves purged from voter registrations.

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Thank you for the detailed reply. I am still very curious as to what @marence meant when she said that third generation americans:

This is a bit confusing to me. Does she mean the oppressors are the “real” white people, the rich, the political class, Trump specifically, the Republicans?

Mostly white-skinned economic exploiters who use race (and anti-immigrant sentiment) as a divide-and-conquer strategy and a distraction. Lyndon Johnson summed it up this way:

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.

It’s important to note that this wasn’t LBJ saying that racism matters less than economic exploitation, but rather that the two problems are deeply connected in America and that African-Americans – who can’t “become” white – always get the short end of the stick.

What’s odd to educated people is that (for example) an Irish-American whose ancestors were portrayed as subhuman and non-white by racist conservative exploiters working to divide the working class in the 19th century now embrace those same racist conservative exploiters after they “became” white. Here’s a review of a book on the subject:

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I remember hearing about this. The Irish were very friendly with and accepting of black americans because they lived in the same neighborhoods. They then became cops and overtly racist in droves to elevate themselves to white.

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Yes. It goes back further (as I recall, there was a brief period of anti-German sentiment in colonial times) and continues to this day. Right now we’re seeing conservatives treat certain lighter-skinned immigrants from countries like Cuba and Venezuela as “honourary white people” as long as they vote GOP and embrace “free”-market fundamentalism (including billionaire worship). You also now see second- or third-generation Latinx Americans becoming some of the most overzealous and abusive officers in the ICE apparatus.

The old formula works for American exploiters and their conservative allies in politics and the media. The only two groups that have no chance at “becoming” Real White Americans™ in this formula are Black people and (in a different and more complex way) Jewish people.

ETA: and, per @milliefink below, indigenous peoples.

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I heard a news story about the reasoning for Latin Americans entering ICE was their resentment over the fact that they imigrated legally. All too bizzare.

Whatever their reasons for joining ICE, they’ve thrown their lot in with an agency that is designed to make things difficult for all immigrants, documented or otherwise. And so we get the phenomenon of documented Latinx ICE officers frequently harassing documented Latinx citizens.

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LBJ’s “Great Society” really could’ve gone a long way, but it got sidelined by the Vietnam War. Almost makes one think the reason we’re constantly engaged in foreign wars is so we have excuses for not spending that money at home, helping the poor.

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Exactly, because finding an us vs them idea is a good strategy to make a distraction. If, after the COVID pandemic will end you will visit Rome and want to taste the real Roman classic cuisine, you should go in a kosher restaurant, because Jews were in Rome since 20 BC, but still got racial laws targeting Jews.
And being not-white is neither a pigment in the skin nor a cultural or religious aspect.
Is being the other, possibly poorer than you.

Look at the map (for US the red square are of Democratic Party, the blue ones are of the (Nothern) League that is far-right and ready to ride the racism) compared with the average revenue.

There’s a big correlation. Not shown in the map is that some zones on the south and north part of the city are where the people arrived in the '60 and their sons, from south Italy are living. These zones were cheaper and built in the '60.
People coming from south were looked with a lot of suspect by northerners, anf these people were racialized by the League when was northerner. Now that has dropped the regional aspect, the people to despise are the Africans or the Arabs (yeah), so they started to get voted from the previous target.


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Interesting. I’ve heard of Asian Americans becoming “honorary whites,” but how will indigenous people as a group become “real white Americans”? Or did you just forget about them?

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