Trump threw a monkey wrench into the capitalist system’s population management machine.
“They lost the allegiance and control of white workers through neglect and will not be able to reclaim this group’s loyalty.”
In the aftermath of Capitol Hill violence, it took no time at all for even the most mainstream white liberals, including President-elect Biden himself, to identify and call out law enforcement’s racial double standard when responding to political mobilizations. Some blame the racially disparate practices on systemic racism and implicit bias. Others suggest conspiracy, noting the highly unusual staffing decisions made by Capitol police, local law enforcement and the Pentagon. There may be elements of truth in these theories, but the most accurate explanation is that Trump threw a monkey wrench into the capitalist system’s population management machine, and the system never expected the unchecked behavior of the white mob.
Population management by those with power has a long history. After ratification of the Constitution, the limitation of the franchise to propertied white men, and the creation of the electoral college, which has been prominent in the controversies of recent weeks, are evidence of the original efforts to control the U.S. population by maintaining a sham democracy that masks domination of the country’s government and economy by a small, elite group. The electoral college was a useful device that made it more convenient to count enslaved Africans as three-fifths of human beings for purposes of apportionment without allowing them to vote. It also gave the elite the comfort of knowing that “correct” election results would not be spoiled by the ignorant mass of white rabble.
“The system never expected the unchecked behavior of the white mob.”
Even though the U.S. government was designed to maintain concentrated power and wealth, the founders could not frankly admit the system was rigged. To do so would risk backlash and resentful mass resistance. The risk of mass white anger at white elites about a rigged political system could be fatal, and because of ongoing wars against Blacks and indigenous people, the last thing the white elite needed was rebellion by the white masses.
The white elite’s burden of battling indigenous nations is well known. Less known, but no less problematic for the elite was the resistance waged by enslaved Africans. In his book Runaway Slaves, John Hope Franklin explains that conspiracies against slave owners were common. He recounts a conversation between two enslaved Africans about plans to attack a slave master’s household.
“She asked him, ‘are you going to kill everybody?’ And he answered ‘Yes.’ She said ‘it would be a pity to kill the little children.’ And he said ‘we will burn the roofs down on them.’”
Franklin’s book also documents how African resistance was not only covert, but often openly defiant. As just one example, “Davy,” an enslaved African in South Carolina “suddenly rose up against his owner and his owner’s wife. In the struggle that ensued, Davy killed them both. He then robbed the storehouse and set out across the countryside.”
“The last thing the white elite needed was rebellion by the white masses.”
Violent force was the only practical method of controlling Africans and indigenous nations. Not only could the white elite not afford conflict with the white working class, but these same white workers were needed to put down the resistance of Africans and the First Nations. White nationalism proved to be of immense value in this regard because it deluded white workers into believing that if “whiteness” was not classless, it at least guaranteed opportunities for upward mobility, and protection from descent into the lowest caste, which was reserved for “niggers and injuns.” Consequently, it appeared to be in white workers’ self-interest to serve as overseers, soldiers, and law enforcers to contain and control these groups.
The institutions of government also affirmed and reaffirmed that the U.S. was a nation for whites and whites only. A white person living in poverty could take comfort in Dred Scott v. Sandford and Johnson v. McIntosh where the highest court in the land stated in no uncertain terms that Africans and indigenous people had no basis for believing they should receive the rights and respect extended to whites.
“White nationalism proved to be of immense value.”
Although the concept of white nationalism was embraced, as years passed, the country found itself with new populations of white ethnic immigrants who were not originally contemplated as part of the white nation. Many of these groups were openly excluded and they experienced discrimination. However, when it became strategically necessary to embrace them, they seized their newly awarded whiteness with ferocious joy. Historian Nell Irvin Painter observed:
“Irish workers had shown little hesitation in brandishing their new-found whiteness as a tool against others. In the West of the 1880s, Irish workingmen agitated as ‘white men’ to drive Chinese workers off their jobs and out of their homes.”
Thus, notions of white supremacy and white affinity became the very heart of consistent psychological operations directed at white workers. Periodic adjustments were required on occasions when, as during Reconstruction, the illusion was shattered by Black progress that appeared to catapult excluded communities into a higher caste. But over time, because of popular culture, media messaging and institutional practices, white workers became thoroughly convinced that they enjoy a privileged status relative to communities of color.
Also, over time, the fear of violent rebellion by white people was forgotten. The power elite became so confident about the loyalty of white workers to the white nation that they have had no concerns about white workers’ obsessive gun culture. The belief has been that if ever those guns are used, they certainly won’t be aimed at those with wealth.
“White workers became thoroughly convinced that they enjoy a privileged status.”
Because corporate successors to the earliest white elite have masterfully maintained illusions of a white nationalism that crosses class lines, they became not only over-confident about their success, but arrogant as well. The corporate decisions of recent decades that have deprived vast numbers of white workers of employment, health care, educational opportunities and other necessities of life have not been accompanied by the psychological operations needed to maintain passive, patient cooperation. Donald Trump stepped into that vacuum, hijacked the white nationalist train, and steered it toward a different destination.
Notwithstanding corporate culpability in the destabilization of white working-class communities, Trump persuaded struggling white communities that “America” had been stolen by socialists, BLM radicals, shithole country immigrants, Antifa, and Obama worshiping cretins. Loyalty was redirected away from “America” and toward Donald J. Trump, the messiah whose divine mission was to lead the Proud Boys, Nazis, QAnon, and just plain white folks in a war to reclaim the country.
“Loyalty was redirected away from ‘America’ and toward Donald J. Trump,”
The corporate establishment is stunned by the destruction, injuries and death in the Capitol. Their realization that they lost the allegiance and control of white workers through neglect is accompanied by the more frightening realization that they will not be able to reclaim this group’s loyalty. Whereas they have never perceived a need for a show of force for crowds of white nationalists, it will be interesting to observe whether the establishment’s white nationalist impulses will be overridden by a more practical conclusion that the same soldiers and riot police deployed to BLM demonstrations will now be necessary for white political gatherings.
A more radical, more militant white nationalist movement can’t be good news for America’s African community. But the danger to us lies not in the destructive racist mission of the MAGA horde, but instead in the prospect of large numbers of our community becoming swept up in the emotional tidal wave of concern about the threat to “our democracy.” If we are misled by Black “leaders” into a delusional belief that “our government” was attacked, then we will step right into a fantasy that allowed white workers to become psychologically manipulated into confused support and defense of forces that exploited them. Historically we have understood our antagonistic relationship with the establishment. For the sake of our struggle for liberation, let’s hold on to that clarity.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently for Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at mfancher[at]comcast.net.
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