Part of the White, Working Class, and Worried about Trump (#WhiteWorkingClassVsTrump) Campaign*:
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, the U.S. electorate has subjected to overt and systemic racism from the Republican candidate Donald Trump. We have also borne witness to Trump exploiting white racial fears in order to garner the support of white people, in particular the white working-class.
This is nothing new. Using racial division to weaken social movements has been a tactic of the ruling class for as long as there has been oppression. This history can easily be traced back to early slave rebellions, which were often led by both black slaves, and white peasants, against the ruling class.
Recognizing Common Oppression
One example of this occurred in the New York City conspiracy of 1741, which allegedly burnt Fort George to the ground. In the investigation that ensued, both black slaves and white peasants who had served as co-conspirators, were executed. This type of solidarity was incredibly frightening to the white ruling class, as the power wielded by such a vast majority, (the 99% if you will) could quite easily overthrow the upper class, a minority in comparison.
In order to quell the growing rebellions, the white ruling class would pay white peasants to serve on “slave patrols,” capturing escaped slaves, and effectively giving poor white people a stake in slavery. While they could not buy slaves, they could be paid to control slaves, and thus created a power structure between two groups of people that before had more in common in their oppression. In the 1800s, in many areas of the south, this became the first semblance of police patrols for those communities.
Learning from the Past
What does this history have to do with Donald Trump today? Aside from using a decades-old tactic to keep white working-class white people and black people from uniting against him, he has also continued the racist legacy of policing by garnering police support. Recently Trump was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, which is the largest police union in the United States.
As a working-class person and member of a labor union, I, like many others, found myself dumbfounded when this news came out. However, linking back to our country’s history, it highlights how the racism that started police forces continues today. This is true, not only their endorsement of racist billionaire, but in the violence against people of color perpetrated by them, and brought to light by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Until we learn to stand together, history will be destined to repeat itself, and people like Donald Trump will continue to rise to power.
* White, Working Class, and Worried about Trump, is a collaboration between a group of concerned working-class anti-racists, Class Action and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Action. Sick of the media and pundits all blaming working-class whites for Trump’s popularity, #WhiteWorkingClassVsTrump was created to show that not all white, working class people embrace Trump’s racism, fear and hate.