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View Diary: Robert Reich: Fear Is Why Poor States Vote Against Their Economic Interest (228 comments)

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  •  There don't have to be black folk around (12+ / 0-)

    for racism to influence how some white people vote.  

    The Republicans (since Nixon) decided to exploit the racism of white folks by blaming all of their economic ills on Democratic policies that "favor the blacks", that "give preferential treatment to blacks" and therefore destroy poor white people's access to a fair shot at the American dream.  Republicans have positioned their party to exploit this fear.  And if the fear doesn't exist, create it.  

    I think you have to go back to the desegregation of schools in the 1950s to see the profound practical impact the rich white flight from public schools had on poor and middle class whites.  Until then, the majority of whites mixed socially regardless of class during the daytime in the public schools.  (To be fair, at the age of 12 or 14 the wealthiest sent their sons and daughters off to prep schools in the East, like the Bushes of Texas, but before that age, most white kids of different classes mixed in town schools).  Republicans exploited white flight not as an attack on those wealthy whites who abandoned the American ideal of free public education (what could be more American than that?) and instead blamed blacks for the choice of rich white people to segregate themselves in private white schools, and used the race card to justify poor and middle class white hatred against the idea of a federal government as the guarantor of "equality" and against blacks.

    When I lived in Chicago, the most progressive and active and connected folks I knew were white Appalachians former coal miners families (the men dying slowly from black lung).  They were poor, poorly educated, disenfranchised, and strong people who knew who the enemy was, and it wasn't the black or gay or immigrant or hippie neighbor, it was a system that screwed us all and sought to exploit us all and turn us each against the other.

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 12:11:13 PM PST

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    •  They liked the Kennedys and Johnson.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hillbilly Dem, redwagon

      and they appreciated the war on poverty.  West Virginia desegregated without a lot of racist events- Virginia and North Carolina set up separate "academies" and some states shut the schools down locally for years.  Not West Virginia.  Appeals to evangelical Christians were more effective with Reagan and Bush.  

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:45:48 PM PST

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    •  again, this really doesn't apply here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies

      West Virginia integrated schools very quickly after Brown, unlike the deep south states who were dragged kicking and screaming by a court order in the 70s. Oh, yes, my native state is racist to the core, but this is not this issue when it comes to the worship of King Coal. It is the least diverse state in the nation.
      So race has little to do with why people vote against their own interests. When people in WV look around at those living in multigenerational poverty, they are white.

      •  West Virginia didn't "integrate schools quickly" (1+ / 0-)
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        after Brown, it adopted a policy of "voluntary desegregation" and was never fully integrated in reality until forced to do so in 1965 by the federal government, 11 years after Brown.  

        The reluctance to integrate, oddly, has some of its roots in the integration of the mining work force, but perhaps because that integration was limited to the mines and did not extend beyond.  

        Although southern West Virginia certainly provided more opportunities for African Americans than could be found in Virginia, it would be wrong to exaggerate the level of racial integration and equality in the region. Black and white miners intermingled while eating lunch, picking up their equipment, and riding shaft elevators and underground rail cars, but they showered and changed in segregated bath houses and went home to separate neighborhoods. In a 1953 study of race relations in southern West Virginia, a white miner explained the difference between below- and above-ground social relations:
        "I eat with 2 or 3 niggers every day (in the mines). I don t object to doing it, in fact I never thought about it much. I don t say that I would go to a nigger s house and eat and I don t say I would let one come to mine to eat, but that s different. As far as I am concerned, eating with a nigger on the job is just like working with him; he s there, he has to eat the same as I do, so I don t pay attention to it."47

        A black miner interviewed for the same study gave only a slightly different response:

        "As for eating with a white man on the job, it don t seem to bother him any and it don t bother me. As long as I tend to my business and he tends to his, they s no kick coming. As for having a white man to my house for dinner, I never have and I have never thought about it too much. I reckon it would be all right and he would be welcome to come, but I don t know as I would invite him unless he made it known first that he wanted to come."48

        Segregation and Integration in the Appalachian Coalfields by Alice E. Carter

        I agree that WV has one of the most profoundly honed sense of the history of class oppression in the US, a class war that joined men of both races against the white owners of the mines.  But that did not preclude poor white miners from accepting as their due within the oppressive feudal system better jobs, better housing, better access to school facilities for their children, etc than their equally poor black co-workers in the mines.  

        I don't disagree that white Appalachians (my husband's family is from Charleston, WV) have the class consciousness from decades as exploited people, but racism is, sadly, part of that past.  It may be a more "benign" form of racism, but it's still a "blame the (random anonymous) N*" for "our woes" as much as the individual mining corporations.  

        I encourage you to read the article linked.  It shows how, in many ways, the impulse to remain voluntarily separate for both black and whites was part and parcel of a long history of shared work in the mines which used and exploited both black and whites underground, but maintained separate company camps above ground in keeping with Jim Crow.  It also describes the path to actual racial integration in the public schools in the mid-1960s.

        My personal belief is that the Civil Rights movement made a tactical error in the 1950s and 1960s by not better linking race AND class, allowing a cynical class of wealthy white conservative politicians to create and use a wedge to split us apart, and set up what seems like a counter-intuitive divide that confounds us to this day.

        "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

        by Uncle Moji on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 09:40:42 AM PST

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