I see we emphasize the degree to which white supremacy is relevant differently, but we agree on the issue of power.
When it comes to white supremacy, I would argue that, regardless of whether or not ‘whiteness’ was attractive per se, it was not codified and made legal — that is, embedded in institutions — until about 500 years ago. That makes a difference.
I have no argument whatsoever with your statements about power. As soon as humans get some, it seems they change at some fundamental level which depletes or even destroys empathy.
There’s no question in my mind that rich white people look down on poor white ones. In fact, as a POC who has spent some time in these settings, I can tell you that they try to ‘recruit’ me with what I consider to be prejudicial statements about ‘trailer trash.’ I perceive this as manipulative and back-handed, as if they are saying to me “now that we’ve allowed you (token brown person) in our midst, we’re going to remind you who the real bad white people are.” This is the sort of manipulative BS that I believe POC need to ignore. To me, ‘trailer trash’ is a prejudicial term to be avoided, since in this setting it is clearly used to apply a heavy foot on top of another human’s neck due to economic differences that may be completely extrinsic to the poor person’s control. The first thing I think when I’ve been in these situations is not: ‘aren’t these poor people trashy?’ but: ‘this manipulative person seems like a backstabber. Maybe I’ll take what he says with a grain of salt and give him a wide berth, since he seems somewhat immoral in his views on other human beings, utilizing power when he could opt for decency.’
It seems to me that many poor white people don’t see that rich white ones, as a group, aren’t interested in helping them and instead point the finger at the POC around them, in particular African-Americans. Regardless, there’s no question in my mind that a large number of poor and lower-middle class white people as a group are manipulated and used, as you describe.
It makes sense for rich white people to distract from their own shenanigans by manipulating poor whites into thinking that POC’s are the enemy, and vice versa. This may not be conscious or deliberate, but it seems to have evolved from our history…And regardless of how conscious or deliberate it is, it still needs to be addressed.