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The Invention Of The White Working Class


The Invention Of The White Working Class

Les Leopold

History warns us to be very, very careful when using the phrase “white working class.” The reason has nothing to do with political correctness. Rather, it concerns the changing historical definitions of who is “white.”


The most telling metric for me is that all the jobs (none of which would be considered "good jobs" by any metric) I had, from the time I got my first newspaper delivery route at age 12, until I was thirty years old are now done by immigrants and I have met no whites who would ever consider doing those jobs and very few who would want their kids doing those jobs.

My peers who were well connected and able to get the high paying factory and trade jobs made way more than I did while I was in college and considerably more than I did during the decade after I graduated college. It was mostly the decline of factory and trade jobs after Saint Ronny's revolution was underway that put my income close to factory and trade worker incomes.


Oh, good, another wedge issue to prevent (dare I use the words) class consciousness.

Besides, literally millions of "white working class persons" voted for H. R. Clinton. In fact, it was most likely a majority of her voters.

Do you think that Ben Carson is going to help African Americans? I think not, but isn't it nice that he adds diversity to the new administration?


"They create an image in our minds of a coherent white working class, hunkered down in the declining manufacturing sector ― white rural workers who have needs and interests different from black and brown urban workers. In doing so, this image feeds into a long history of white working class creationism that divides working people by race."

Completely disagree with this assessment. To me, I use the (admittedly vague) term "white working class" to point out how much they have in common with black and brown workers. Lack of economic and political power, centuries of being preyed on and put down by a ruling class, lack of employment, educational, and advancement opportunities. Shorter lifespans, subject to greater direct and indirect systemic violence and injustice generally. Commonly referred to in strongly negative stereotypes in certain circles.

I suppose one could get confused by thinking of Trump supporters at least in part as the "white working class" and use it in a negative sense. To the extent some blame the white working class for Clinton's catastrophe. But that is to mistake the commonalities for the same ongoing divisive propaganda and rhetoric from the "top". That is to encourage them to fall prey to the same cheap economically fascist propaganda. Which doesn't seem to be your goal.

I agree there is no such thing as race. And that it is difficult for working class folks to unite when the corporate political parties are not interested in serving them and in fact actively work to divide them, most commonly based on race, but also on sex, gender and religious and other identities.

I don't see discussing the white working class AT ALL as a white-washing of rural America or our manufacturing workforce. It doesn't deny that there are people of color in both demographics. It instead points out -- at least when directed towards a liberal audience -- that there are a lot of white people who share more in common with those poor blacks and browns than the educated upper middle class (and the propaganda machine) usually acknowledge. And it could be used that way when directed towards a more conservative audience too, instead of using it as a source of further division. Perhaps a better term? "White underclass" maybe? Though I don't think that's the term I would use when talking to a mostly conservative whitish audience. But the fact is, working class and poor whites are not well off. The bottom 50% of white Americans, about 100 million people, have in total about 2% of the national wealth. That is less than the 2.3% held by 55 million latino Americans, less than the 2.7% held by 47 million african Americans. Certain national white demographics are the only ones with declining lifespans in the USA. And while poverty rates are higher among other ethnic demographics, there are still several million white American children (and older people) living in poverty.

To me, the term "white working class" can be used to remember and remind of these commonalities, not divide. As with the shifting notion of "white," it can be used to point out the logical and real-world falsity of the dominant divisive rhetoric. Shoot, taking the shifting notion of white a little further, and there are african Americans who are whiter than tens of millions of european Americans.


That there is no race among humans was taught by Buddha 2500 years ago.

"“’I will explain to you—O Vasettha’, so said Bhagavat, ’in due order the exact distinction of living beings according to species, for their species are manifold: Know ye the grass and the trees, although they do not exhibit (it), the marks that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“Then know the worms, and the moths, and the different sorts of ants, the marks, that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“Know you also the four-footed (animals), small and great, the marks that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“Know you also the serpents, the long-backed snakes, the marks that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“Then know you also the fish which range in the water, the marks that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“Then know you also the birds that are borne along on wings and move through the air, the marks that constitute species are for them, and (their) species are manifold.

“As in these species the marks that constitute species are abundant, so in men the marks that constitute species are not abundant.

“Not as regards their hair, head, ears, eyes, mouth, nose, lips, or brows.

“Nor as regards their neck, shoulders, belly, back, hip, breast, female organ, sexual intercourse,

“Nor as regards their hands, feet, palms, nails, calves, thighs, colour or voice are there marks that constitute species as in other species.

“Difference there is in beings endowed with bodies, but amongst, men this is not the case, the difference amongst men is nominal (only)."

from the Sutta Nipata, per https://what-buddha-said.net/library/Wheels/wh_200.html#N13


The US has it's roots in both racism and a slave economy (not restricted to the antebellum southern states, as the north benefitted and initially compromised with the southern states). Certainly race does matter. Between this and the genocide of the Native Americans, the notion of feeling any sense of patriotism always involves turning a blind eye toward the ugly past of the US -- the US was founded on injustice. And that past is still with us and has yet to be fully addressed.

By the same token, Southern Strategists of the GOP and adherents of identity politics of the DNC both obfuscate the ultimate issue insofar as neither addresses the economic underpinnings of these injustices. Why slavery? --because it benefits the ruling class. Why genocide? --because it benefits the ruling class.

What do all these-- along with the "white" (however defined) working class have in common? They are all exploited by the ruling class. And it's on that primary basis (but certainly not sole basis) of economic class that must be addressed. The Republicans-- it goes without saying-- won't address it. The problem is neither will the Dems, who for decades have dismissed the white working class. Obviously any workable solution lies outside the Republican AND the Democratic parties.

What is disingenuous about the Democratic party is that it has sought to separate the economic realities from the racial ones -- so that the working class is actually excluded from all concern about identity politics. This is why the Dems can support affirmative action and at the same time support "welfare reform." It's all fine that minorities are getting more upper management positions, but what good does that do the poor, whether black or white or Hispanic?

The Democratic party has done nothing but evade the issue of income inequality. In fact, they sought to thwart the one person in the Dem primaries who actually addressed the problem. Obviously the DNC is not a solution to the problems of the working class.

We've got class warfare going on here -- the ruling class has been waging it against everyone else right from the beginning, and both the Republicans and the Democrats have served them well. Neither party represents our interests, black, white, Hispanic, whatever.


Many people don't vote based on their economic interests. Perhaps most don't. Are environmentalists voting based on their economic interests? I don't think so. In left wing theory people vote on their economic interests but in reality they often don't. I think much of the Trump vote came from evangelicals who voted for him based on their religious values. Not that Trump shares their values. But he got more evangelical votes than Ted Cruz who was supposed to be the evangelical candidate along with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. I think Trump's appeal with these people is he promised to turn back the clock to a time when evangelicals were in synch with US. After the 1960s the US changed dramatically and the dominant culture shifted away from the evangelical view. The "culture wars" were won by the left. With no place else to turn and now living in a country they no longer felt they belonged in the evangelicals turned to Trump.


Great article and reference! WASPS aside (and questionably) there is no such thing as "white people" and even then, racist divisions only serve to cripple our class. The article gets to the larger question of why so few of us are members of the Socialist Party? Is it time for us to sign up en masse, and to create a new and different kind of party?


We need to stop using this terminology, it's insulting to everyone involved, and inaccurate. Let's just say outright what we all know Trump supporters to be.

Trailer trash.


Of course, and it spead across all races.


Trailer trash is very insulting, and there are a lot of rich people who voted for him as well.


We are part socialist only people will not admit it. We have public schools where over 90% of kids are educated. We also have welfare, food stamps and medicare. So..... What we don't have is better union representation and wages at a certain level not to mention the stoppage of outsourcing.


Perhaps we should stop labeling people according to class, race, size, you name it, and be more civil to each other.


Most people vote with their pocketbooks, but the churches use the "values" to try to control others.


The represent the wealthy regardless of race.


Of course, and I think that we need to stop using "class" and "race" to divide even more. Also, what is educated? Just because we went to college does not mean we are smarter or better. In fact there is a difference between "smart" and "educated."


Ironic that the left has now seemed to adopt the "one drop rule" that was the basis of Jim Crow. Time to stop obsessing about race. Rural and small town workers are hurting, along with many workers in urban areas. Enough about race already, how about the haves and have nots?


Oh yes yes yes. And I know white working class who voted for Bernie.


Or the haves and the have some mores?


How about if we all consider ourselves members of the climate class? Also, I am sick of the term "best and birghtest." Its all relative.