America’s poor primarily blames people of color for their poverty, claiming that if immigrants weren’t ‘stealing jobs’ and black people weren’t ‘getting handouts,’ then white people would be able to get the job which, they imply, belongs to them anyway because they’re white. White people, generally speaking, decided about 500 years ago that, REGARDLESS of any actual achievement or contribution to society, the spoils belong to them. This is particularly true with black people.

So:

  1. When poor/working class POC’s arrive as immigrants, working class white people often perceive this as ‘stealing my job.’ This is stated WITHOUT any knowledge of the skills or contributions that this working-class POC may make. This implies: NO MATTER HOW MUCH BETTER YOUR INTRINSIC CONTRIBUTION, POC, YOU’RE STILL NOT WHITE: THE ACTUAL CRITERIA for conferring benefit. Note that, in this equation, true merit is all but macerated; basically, the white person states ‘because I’m white, I’m first in line. This is true, POC, regardless of how much more you actually contribute. White=first in line under all circumstances.
  2. When educated POC come to the US and achieve (this tends to happen in professional fields like IT and medicine where there is a great deal of OBJECTIVE data required in order to achieve, thus proving TRUE merit), poor and working class white people, generally speaking, act angry and resentful despite the fact that the POC has shown actual objective achievement. Thus, the actual conclusion in their brains is (again!) that despite intrinsic achievement, POC do not belong, at any time, at higher levels of society than white people. That is, white people not making those contributions still have a right to be resentful. They assume dominance even in the absence of achievement;
  3. When black people of any kind achieve — often only after exhibiting herculean efforts and significant intrinsic success — poor and working class white people often respond with dog whistle justifications: they are getting ‘handouts.’ AGAIN, despite a lack of actual achievement AND a long history of racial privileging which, unlike economic viability, is PERMANENT, this group often manages to blame black people for their lack of achievement, which exists despite profound privileging. When I worked with this demographic, which I did for the better part of a decade, I heard the ’n’ word more times than I could count, always connected to some assertion of how presumptively ‘hard’ white people work and how black people and immigrants are getting things for ‘free.’

Collectively, white people blame people of color — and in particular, black ones — for their lack of achievement, somehow converting their massive privilege into ‘earn’ and everyone else’s ACTUAL achievement into ‘handout.’ Collectively, white people — regardless of economic level — act as if they are always first in line, even when any evidence of actual merit places them last.

There may be some extent of refusal to take ‘handouts’ from the government when they need them; in this sense, there is some self-blame. BUT this certainly doesn’t dominate.

What dominates in most white people’s minds, rich or poor, is how to change, in one’s mind, the results of this profound privileging — one which takes from POC’s as it gives to whites, which operates as zero-sum because that is exactly how Europeans wanted it centuries ago. The operative psychology seems to be that actual privilege will be transmogrified to ‘earn’ in the mind of that white person — a form of self-deception — and that anyone who is actually earning — who shows true merit — will by definition pose a threat.

This is a concrete threat, in terms of money and jobs, and it is an existential threat because it throws into question the entire basis by which most white people operate: it forces them to question their merit.

As far as I can tell, poor and working class people blame black, other, POC, indigenous, etc etc etc — and may occasionally blame themselves.

This underlines the need to acknowledge that class cannot be discussed in the US without talking about race.

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