Don’t Feel Bad for White Working-Class People
They have not been forgotten. This can be a good thing for everyone.
Politicians, pundits, and people everywhere yap about the white working class. The talk about this demographic only amplifies every day. We can credit all this focus to the anniversary of Trump’s ultimate power trip and future elections.
We hear talk about how the white working class feels forgotten.
They say this section of the population is anxious about the shifting demographics in the country.
They are worried about jobs and immigrants taking their jobs.
They are worried about the values of this country changing.
They are worried about being underrepresented, and not seeing faces that look like them.
And, in particular, these people feel the mainstream news media cannot be trusted.
Strategists tell us we must have a relevant message to validate their concerns.
That’s what’s been said so Democrats can win elections.
And, according to everyone alive, Trump spoke their language. He blew the whistles and rang the bells they wanted to hear.
Now, Democrats are trying to make sure the truth of their message gets told.
And that may be a strategy to win elections, but that’s not how we build better societies.
Don’t we all want a better society and a more united state of being?
So, I don’t feel bad for the white working class. Their feelings are good and necessary. Why?
Because white people in the United States who are anxious about race are coming down from a high.
They have been “high” for so long that it hurts to be weaned off of white supremacy. The comedown creates withdrawals.
And those facts do not call for any “poor babies,” because white supremacy is a disease. But the disease does not absolve the diseased addict from blame.
Many of these addicts do have blame for white supremacy. They vote for politicians and policies that further white supremacy.
And while their votes and positions often go against their own financial interests, that’s just addict behavior. Addicts harm themselves financially and in other ways.
So, these are really dope sick people, and they need help.
But they don’t need help that coddles them. They don’t need lullabies, bedtime stories, kumbaya, or sweet nothings. They don’t need help, talk, or promises, which enable them.
Instead, they need help, talk, and opportunities to feel the pain they feel and connect with nonwhites in pain.
This is a process of growth and change. We can’t even call it recovery because the social order has never been right.
These are “growing pains.” And white people who feel wobbly have the ability to learn how to truly walk tall.
If, they work the steps carefully.
So, don’t interfere with these steps, even when they kick and scream. We cannot stop the process, there’s too much at stake.
But there are scholars who say the real enemy is class. They want to reverse the word order of the phrase white working class. They believe class, has always been the same as, or worse than, race.
They mention how the white working class hates the “professional elites” who talk down and snub them. These same professional elites also blame the white working class for racism.
So accordingly, the relationship between the white professional elites and the white working class is “broken.”
Now, to me, this sounds like a battle royal over white supremacy. The elites reign super-duper supreme, while they too benefit from white supremacy. But the elites also don’t acknowledge the white supremacy in the white working class.
As white people in a society they control, the white working class can’t tolerate talk from the elites who belittle and exclude them.
And due to social progress, the white working class can no longer rely on whiteness to feel good or better.
The break between the elites and the working class comes from the breakdown of white supremacy. Trump repairs the breach. He unites white supremacy from top to bottom.
This isn’t about class but climate change. And even a slight tilt away by the white-hot sun of supremacy freezes out many.
So, to see these feelings as a class issue alone is an attempt to blunt and block change.
And if we short-circuit the focus on white supremacy we become enablers.
The point of this pain must be progress, human connections, empathy, and sobriety.
The danger is if they only feel pain and then relapse into white supremacy. That will make it far worse for all of us.
And unfortunately, some white working-class people are worse with their addiction to white supremacy.
That’s what Donald Trump offers these addicts. A full relapse into white supremacy. One scholar in an article about white supremacy refers to Trump as a “pusher.” And the name of his drug is MAGA, Make America Great Again.
But when sober, their left out feelings should lead to empathy for historically marginalized groups.
We need political leaders to make these connections for the white working class.
Instead of pure attacks on their racism, we must make connections across racial lines about mutual struggle.
And we need more than politicians to preach this message.
The media should spell out these connections too.
Even our faith communities must be engaged in this effort.
Just like a pay cut, a privilege cut can be humbling too. And people resent those feelings and changes. But humility should help the humble to see the shared humanity of others who are down.
So as a society we must help the white working class to make these connections. And, we have options as individuals too. At least one study has shown how empathetic conversations can reduce bias.
So, when they complain about job loss, why don’t we help them to see all the people who haven’t been considered for jobs because of their race?
When they want to label everything fake news, why don’t we show them the labels the media has put on minorities?
When they cry about being underrepresented, why don’t we talk about white male dominance in society and the underrepresented races and genders?
When they want to scream about the prevalence of liberal and elite ideas in society, let’s talk about the prevalence of white supremacy.
When they talk about bad trade agreements, and other laws their government has passed that aren’t serving them, we need a response.
Let’s remind them about all the agreements at the local and federal level that work to the detriment of minority communities.
We can’t allow them to think they are alone. If they think they are alone they will believe they are the only ones that count.
They won’t see how other groups still contend with hardships handed to them by the state.
One article about Trump’s working-class voters says this:
“His backing is highest among whites who are affected by declining and stagnant wages, are less likely to have high school or college degrees, have been knocked out of the workforce, or whose life expectancy declined.”
Another sociologist says the white working class feels like the minority group and feels invisible.
Here’s my question — Is the white working class becoming Black in America?
They sure are experiencing stats and facts closer to Black Americans.
If so, they still have a privileged shade. Despite the screams about economic woes, the white working class still ranks higher than every race of working-class Americans in the quality of life factors.
So much so that studies show the main drivers of Trump’s support were racism and sexism and not economic dissatisfaction.
But one way we see white supremacy breaking is a white working class who looks Blacker in stats and facts.
That’s another reason why hate groups are on the rise and people flock to similar rhetoric. White people don’t want the Black experience they invented.
But as we aim for level boats — without the tempest of white supremacy — everything stops and stagnates when we call this group forgotten.
Forgotten is the enemy of forward. It’s a stalling tactic. It’s also a misnomer and an oxymoron.
Every axle and industry of the world still turns by and for white people. Their faces are everywhere and we must point them out clearly.
We can’t support their continual need for dominance.
No, they were never forgotten. The white working class was misplaced.
They were misplaced too high in society by virtue of white supremacy.
We can’t entertain the notion that the white working class is “forgotten” when other races still struggle to be considered human for the first time.
We can’t feel bad now that the white working-class has an opportunity to change for the better.
We can’t be upset because time and trends are leveling the playing field.
That’s good news for all of us. We must encourage and intervene to make sure the work continues until it’s done.
The white working class must work hard on themselves to gain empathy for those of us still in the shadows.
Then, we can all emerge more perfect and more united.
Writer’s Note: The comparison of white supremacy to addiction started for me on Dec 14, 2017, from a conversation on Medium here. I have since learned academics have also made this same comparison. (It’s true, none of us are original, haha.)
It appears this comparison became more prominent after Charlottesville. One source is featured in the Guardian here. It’s possible I could’ve picked up this comparison which is why sources are cited in my piece.
If you search “white supremacy as an addiction” numerous articles will appear. (search listing). One of which is a study from August 2017, of former white supremacists. The subjects in the study (former white supremacists)make the same comparison.
Finally, the term “addict” is personal to me. In no way do I use it to excuse or shame. Thanks for reading.