A polemic against, and history of, white racism in the US written in the run up to the 2008 presidential election.
To other white skinned working Americans:
As the election season of 2008 approaches, politics and the ramifications of those elections are topics that are on everyone's minds. I know that other white-skinned working class people feel the same way I do: 2008 could make it or break it for us. However, most people reading this may initially disagree with what I mean by that statement. Hopefully by the end of this letter, I can change some minds.
I start with the assumption that white skinned working class people are tired of living in poverty, tired of living paycheck to paycheck, tired of seeing the products of their hard efforts evaporate before their very eyes. The times are tough for many of us, where we don't know how we're going to survive. Politician after politician makes empty promises, and seemingly there's no relief for us, as white skinned working Americans. So we start to look around at who to blame, and it's easy enough... we blame black people, brown people... "illegals". It's simple enough. We're competing with these people for jobs and resources, in some cases it seems like a logical enough conclusion to come to.
Historically, we've always been at odds with immigrants and non-white peoples. We have seen our allegiance become an allegiance to whiteness, to being white. We can relate to other white people, no matter how poor or rich. They're white like us, and that's something we can identify with, come to terms with. So of course, our natural enemies become non-white peoples.
The only problem with this idea is that we've had it wrong for centuries. We've been kept blind to the true nature of what is afoot here, as to what's really going on. Look around us. Who fills the trailer parks with us? Who works in the factories or fast food restaurants with us? Who is beside us working in the fields, picking produce that we'll never really be able to afford? Is it rich people, especially rich white people? Hell no, it isn't. It's brown people, black people, yellow people. It's people who have different shades of skin than us. They are the people that are in similar situations to us, living paycheck to paycheck, suffering like we do. So why then would we view them as our enemy?
Allegiances, traditionally, are made amongst people who have common interests. In an historical sense, white skinned working people have overwhelmingly believed that our interests are based on skin color. We have to work for the betterment of the race, for our culture, for our identity. The truth, however, could never be further away. Whose interests do these beliefs really serve? White workers? In some sense, the answer may be "yes". Working for the advancement of the white race at the cost of other races does buy us relative privileges and even some luxuries. In the end, however, we're still poor, we're still being used to make other people money. And those people aren't non-white working people.
The true interests of white skinned workers lie with other workers, no matter what their race. This idea is simple enough, but will take much time to understand and really internalize. Other workers, of all races, are exploited. We are exploited. We work to barely meet our needs, while bosses and the people in charge profit from that labor. We are born and we die in squalor or relative poverty while the rich and the politicians live in the lap of luxury. Who are these rich people? Who are these politicians? The truth is that 95% of them are white. They are 95% male. They are 95% English speaking. They are 95% Christian (or at least pretend to be so). Tonight when we go to bed tonight in our overcrowded apartments, our small houses, or our tiny trailers, they are the ones who will go to bed in luxury, in comfort, with no worries at all.
The blunt reality is that for the last five hundred years on this continent, white working class people have been used by mostly white rich people to colonize for, kill for, work for, and then better the living standards of those same white rich people, all the while sacrificing our own needs, wants, aspirations, and even lives. It really is as simple as that. No one denies the history of what has happened at working people's expenses. Wars, poverty, homelessness, wage slavery... these are all ills created by someone, and perpetuated by us... the same workers who suffer these ills.
For some five centuries we've been used by the rich among our own race to promote their agenda and suffered because of it. Yet, somehow, we've still been convinced that our allegiance is to our race, to these same rich whites that would just as soon see us die as they would be to help us as racial allies. Let's get real, how often do these white rich racialists actually just give handouts to us poor white skinned folk? When does this actually happen? Do you really think they care at all about our well being? Where's the allegiance from them, the people that put us in the worst situations we face and also spew out the racialist, pro-white speeches at rallies and gun shows?
The heart of the matter is that for these five centuries, we've been too busy fighting the people who should naturally be our allies against these injustices. The rich whites have used our skin color against us, have used our human nature of fearing living beings different than us against us... they've used us against us. They've blinded us with these racialist ideas of "white supremacy" and "white pride" and "white nationalism" into fighting other working people of other races, while they sit on the sideline and laugh.
When you walk into your workplace tomorrow, where are the majority of the blacks? Or brown skinned people? Or women? Are they in positions of power over us? Sure, some might be. But where are the majority of those that are at our workplace? That's right: side by side with us, experiencing the same drudgery and wage slavery as us. So, logic might tell us that they should also be side by side with us in our fight for liberty and an end to oppression. Wouldn't that make more sense than working side by side with the same people that rob our paychecks and swindle us out of the products of our labor?
For far too long, the ignorant stooges of the rich within our race have thrown up a red flag to these ideas... have spewed words like "pinko" and "communist" and "terrorist" at white folks that may have finally started to awaken to the truth of what's really happening here. I'm not a communist. I hate Stalin. I hate Lenin. I hate Mao. I also hate Bush. I also hate Clinton. I also hate Carter. I also hate Paul. These people, all of them, are the ruling elites that I despise... who live in relative luxury while the rest of us work away our very existence to barely eat.
White skinned working people, the time is now to form the real alliances that will actually better our lives. It's time to see who our real allies must be.
For starters, we have to reject the ridiculous notion that mostly brown skinned immigrants from Mexico or other countries are our enemy, that they are somehow stealing our jobs, that they somehow really threaten us. Let's get real. Who's really stealing our jobs? Well, let's see, even a generous estimate of the number of illegal immigrants working in the U.S. is 6 million (notice I said working, not living). This stands in stark contrast to the conservative estimate that nearly 50 million jobs will have been lost to outsourcing by 2015 since NAFTA came into affect in 1994. Well, let's ask ourselves, who's really stealing our jobs? Poor Mexicans? Or Rich White CEOs?
We're fed ridiculous ideas of the "invading" brown hordes, and the rich whites that make up the upper echelons of organizations like the Minutemen and other similar groups salivate over our reactions. If we're busy fighting the Mexicans at the border, and busy trying to round up all the "illegals" then we're too busy to fight that real enemy, that one that keeps eluding us, those rich whites I keep talking about. Most of us that keep falling for these lines initially might mean well. Heck, we only want to defend our families and our communities... but in reality, we're weakening them even more, by fighting our real potential allies and diverting our attention from the real enemy, the "enemy within" (our own race).
And why are all these brown skinned immigrants coming here in the first place? Why is there this sudden rush in the last thirteen years to get into this country? 80% of all illegal immigrants have entered since 1994. Why is that? What happened in 1994 that affected working people in Mexico just as it affected us? The passage of NAFTA, a free trade program that benefits nobody but the rich people on both sides of the border! If the rich people on both sides of the border are united, despite what race they are, why are we still allowed to be divided and conquered?
The evolution of the creation of the identity of whiteness on this continent tells us everything we need to know about the situation we now find ourselves in. I think that David Gilbert explains this the best, in his essay "Looking at the Working Class Historically":
Up until the 1680’s little distinction was made in the status of Blacks and English and other Europeans held in involuntary servitude. Contrary to common belief, the status of Blacks in the first seventy years of the Virginia colony was not that of racial, lifelong, hereditary slavery, and the majority of the whites who came were not "free”. Black and white servants intermarried, escaped together, and rebelled together.
There were a series of servile rebellions that threatened the plantation system in the period preceding the transition to racially designated chattel slavery and white supremacy. In 1661 Black and Irish servants joined in an insurrectionary plot in Bermuda. In 1663, in Virginia, there was an insurrection for the common freedom of Blacks, whites and Indian servants. In the next 20 years, there were no fewer than ten popular and servile revolts and plots in Virginia. Also many Black and white servants successfully escaped (to Indian territories) and established free societies.
The 20 year period of servile rebellions made the issue of social control urgent for the plantation owners, at the same time as they economically needed to move to a system of perpetual slavery. The purpose of creating a basic White/Black division was in order to have one section of labor police and control the other. As Allen says, “The non-slavery of white labor was the indispensable condition for the slavery of black labor”.
A series of laws were passed and practices imposed that forged a qualitative distinction between white and Black labor. In 1661 a Virginia law imposed twice the penalty time for escaped English bond-servants who ran away in the company of an African life-time bond-servant. Heavy penalties were imposed on white women servants who bore children fathered by Africans. One of the very first white slave privileges was the exemption of white servant women from work in the fields and the requirements through taxes to force Black children to go to work at twelve, while white servant children were excused until they were fourteen. In 1680, Negroes were forbidden to carry arms, defensive or offensive. At the same time, it was made legal to kill a Negro fugitive bond-servant who resisted recapture.
What followed 1680 was a 25 year period of laws that systematically drew the color line as the limit on various economic, social, and political rights. By 1705, “the distinction between white servants and Black slavery were fixed: Black slaves were to be held in life long hereditary slavery and whites for five years, with many rights and protections afforded to them by law.”
We can infer from these series of laws that white laborers were not “innately racist” before the material and social distinctions were drawn. This is evidenced by the rulers’ need to impose very harsh penalties against white servants who escaped with Blacks or who bore them children. As historian Philip Bruce observed of this period, many white servants “...had only recently arrived from England, and were therefore comparatively free from... race prejudice.”
The white bond-servants now could achieve freedom after 5 years service: the white women and children, at least, were freed from the most arduous labor. The white bond servant, once freed, had the prospect of the right to vote and to own land (at the Indians’ expense).
These privileges did not come from the kindness of the planters’ hearts nor from some form of racial solidarity. (Scottish coal miners were held in slavery in the same period of time.) Quite simply, the poor whites were needed and used as a force to suppress the main labor force: the African chattel slaves. The poor white men constituted the rank and file of the militias and later (beginning in 1727) the slave patrols. They were given added benefits, such as tax exemptions to do so. By 1705, after Blacks had been stripped of the legal right to self-defense, the white bond servant was given a musket upon completion of servitude. There was such a clear and conscious strategy that by 1698 there were even “deficiency laws” that required the plantation owners to maintain a certain ratio of white to African servants. The English Parliament, in 1717, passed a law making transportation to bond-servitude in the plantation colonies a legal punishment for crime. Another example of this conscious design is revealed in the Council of Trade and Plantation report to the King in 1721 saying that in South Carolina “Black slaves have lately attempted and were very nearly succeeding in a new revolution – and therefore, it may be necessary to propose some new law for encouraging the entertainment of more white servants in the future.
We can see the evolution of the creation of whiteness, or a racial identity for white skinned peoples in the Americas, that stood in contrast to the identity of non-white skinned peoples. This created the us against them mentality. Once our allegiances stopped being to other impoverished and servile peoples and were instead changed to allegiances to white people of all classes, we lost track of who the real enemy was. We're still there. The rich people among our own race have us so confused that we'd rather be on the border hunting for brown skinned working people (be honest here, if this was about securing our borders, why aren't we talking about illegal immigrants coming from Canada, or even talking about any white skinned illegal immigrants?) than actually fighting those people that create the social conditions that we all collectively suffer in.
Our blind hatred of non-white people will continue to be the nails in our coffins. Other nails in our coffins will be the continued ridiculous attitudes we show toward women, people with different sexual and gender identities, people with disabilities, and people of different religions.
The rich have been very keen on dividing us up as much as they can, by distorting and magnifying existing divisions and differences among those of us that suffer at their hands. We would rather vote somebody in office that stands against abortion and gay marriage that will still steal our money and exploit us economically than someone we perceive to be on the opposite sides of these issues.
We consistently get used and thrown to the side, just to expand the power of those already above us. We'd rather fight against abortion while we and our five kids go hungry at night than actually organize for better pay, or fight back against those that use us.
It's a sick reality, and yes, the stakes are high in 2008. They're high every year. And deep down, we all know that no matter who of these rich assholes wins this election, we're still going to be screwed, and we're still going to be ranting about the "illegals" stealing our jobs, or the blacks being too criminal, or these crazy hippie liberal lesbians being allowed to marry, while ignoring the rich, white, Christians among us that rake in the profits and power. Wake up! We've fallen for this crap for far too long! No Mitt Romney or Pat Buchanan or Ron Paul or John Edwards is going to save us! Only we can do it... together, as people of all races and backgrounds that are sick of living like this!
This is an open call to all pissed off white skinned working people. This is an open call to ignore the baiting of the Minutemen, to ignore the racialist allegiances that the rich whites try to get us to buy into, to ignore the illogical and ridiculous calls among the ignorant among us! This is a call to reject the idea of whiteness, that is, to reject the idea that our allegiance is somehow determined by what skin pigment we have, no matter whether our real life situations are so different. This is an open call to no longer ignore the fact that our real allies are not determined by skin pigment, but by our social conditions. Our real enemies are mostly white English speaking Christians. Our allies are people of all colors who are forced to work for a living.
Until we get these simple ideas into our head, then we're doomed. Doomed to repeat everything that's happened for the last centuries. We'll still be here trying to climb out of the squalor we find ourselves in, and our children will inherit that destiny as well, and their children after them, and so on... until finally, a generation of white skinned working people realizes that we've been tricked. That we've been used. And by people of our own race. That damned "enemy within".
To meet other white skinned working people (and working people of other skin pigmentation too) who really want liberty and a life worth living, you can reach us at: [email protected]
Hurry. There's no time to lose. We've been losing for too long.
Signed, respectfully and hopefully,
John Brown Gun Club
Reproduced from Land and Freedom.