From Les Leopold, republished in Naked Capitalism:
The definition of “white” and of “race” in general depends on the needs of the most powerful elements of society. To justify slavery and Jim Crow, race science gave Southern elites a justification for denying human rights to millions with darker skin colors.The “science” of the early 1900s created finely grained racial hierarchies that conveniently justified immigration restrictions and colonialism. Colonial powers argued that since their “race” was at the top of the ladder, they had the right and the duty to rule lesser peoples and their countries.To successfully mobilize America against the “master race” and the “yellow peril” during WWII, American leaders permitted “white” to be broadened to include most of what previously had been considered lesser races. (However, racist southern Democrats and their lock-down control of Congress, made sure that black and brown people were denied New Deal benefits and therefore would continue to suffer as separate races. The Japanese internment camps further heightened the idea of a separate race of “Orientals.”)
When we invent the white working-class, we whitewash an increasingly diverse manufacturing workforce. Take the workforce at Carrier, which is in the news because of Trump’s effort to prevent its jobs from moving to Mexico. Isn’t it a perfect example of a beleaguered and declining white working-class in Indiana, looking to Trump for help?No. The Carrier workforce is 50 percent African American. Half of the assembly line workers are women. Burmese immigrants make up 10 percent of the employees.Drop the dubious white working-class construction and we’ll see that Porter is asking the wrong question. It’s not whether the imagined white working-class voted for its own economic interests by voting for Trump.Rather, the real question is this: Is it even possible for working people of all kinds to vote their economic interests given the corporate orientation of both parties?