The Connection between White Supremacy and Class in the United States
White supremacy refers to the ideas and beliefs that purport that white people or individuals that have natural white skin are superior over other human racial groups. In a contemporary context, the white supremacist term is employed in describing the groups that espouse fascist or racist doctrines. Noteworthy, supremacist groups are been known to use violence to attain their goals. The race is the notion that the human species is categorized into unique groups based on behavioral and physical differences. Essentially, race is any human social groups that can be categorized according to perceived similarities in physical traits. Class refers to a group of people that have the same socioeconomic status. In the United States, the white supremacy doctrine was taken for granted by social and political leaders from the 19th to mid-20th century. This essay discusses the connection between white supremacy and class in the United States.
Various events, laws and people exacerbated the racial and class divisions that existed in the early American period. One such event was the civil rights movement that advocated for social justice for people of color in the 1950s and 1960s. While the Civil War got rid of slavery, it did not put an end to unequal treatment and discrimination of people of color. Black people continued to face the devastating effects of racism, particularly in the South. By mid-20th century, people of color had endured violence and prejudice against them (Bateman, Ira, and John, 24). Black Americans alongside numerous white Americans mobilized and an unprecedented fight pushing for equality that lasted two decades.
Jim Crow laws also contributed to class and racial divisions in the early American Period. People of color had made some progress in their equality agenda after the constitution granted people of color equal protection as white people. The 15th Amendment to the constitution of 1870 gave Black Americans the right to vote. Still numerous white supremacists, moreso those in the South, were not happy that the people they once enslaved had similar rights as them (M. Beliso‐De Jesús, and Jemima, 65). They, therefore, came up with Jim Crow laws to erase the progress made during Reconstruction and keep them segregated from their white counterparts. The laws were put in place in the South towards the end of the 19th century. The Jim Crow laws ensured that people of color and white people used different public facilities. The laws also ensured that people of color could not live in the same towns or attend the same schools as their white counterparts. Furthermore, Jim Crow laws criminalized interracial marriage and made it impossible for people of color to vote without passing the voter literacy test. Despite Jim Crow laws not being adopted in the northern states, people of color experienced discrimination in their jobs or in accessing education or in attempting to purchase a house (Roediger, 42). To make the issue worse, the laws passed in some states continued to limit the voting rights of people of color. The segregation brought about by the Jim Crow laws gained ground in 1896 after the Supreme Court ruled in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that it was possible for facilities for white and black people to be separate but equal.
Undoubtedly, capitalism plays and continues to play a huge role in the development of social and class divisions in America. Individuals such as Ella Myers, J. Phillip Thompson, and Michael Dawson agree that capitalism was inextricably linked to class formation, the emergence of a separate white and black proletariat and segregation of labor markets (Liu, 349). W. E. Dubois argued that the white proletariat benefited from psychic wage and the antiblackness of the capitalist social order. Du bois’ argued that racial capitalism gave a limited democracy for white workers that were white. He posited that there are both irrational and rational aspects of white supremacy and both aspects can cause violence against black bodies. This is enough evidence that during the Jim Crow era, the relationship of people of color towards capitalism was of exploitation and property expropriation and relations.
Without a doubt, gender played an important role in white supremacy and class segregation in early America. This is because white women have been a part of the notion of white supremacy from the beginning. White women have made investments into white supremacy for a long time and they invest in this notion more than the country itself. This points to their hand in slavery economy. Although white women are viewed by historians as being bystanders to slavery brutalities, they were rather active participants. Prior to the civil war, white women had little political and economic power with the exception they could buy and sell slaves (Feagin, Hernan and Pinar 16). They used slavery as a way of increasing their wealth which was not possible to transfer to their husbands in marriage. In essence, slavery provided white women with autonomy, agency, and freedom they could not have without it, which is why they were deeply invested. Worth noting as white women never gave up on white supremacy, a matter of fact, they doubled down.
In most cases, white supremacy and racial and class divisions tend to benefit one group over the other and in most cases, white people tend to be favored than their colored counterparts. By definition, white supremacy is meant to favor white races as they are viewed as being superior to all other races. Worth noting, that white people do not have to be white supremacists to benefit from white supremacy ideologies, but yet it still shapes American society.
Bateman, David A., Ira Katznelson, and John S. Lapinski. Southern nation: Congress and white supremacy after reconstruction. Vol. 158. Princeton University Press, 2018.
Feagin, Joe R., Hernan Vera, and Pinar Batur. White racism: The basics. Routledge, 2020.
Liu, William Ming. “White male power and privilege: The relationship between White supremacy and social class.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 64.4 (2017): 349.
M. Beliso‐De Jesús, Aisha, and Jemima Pierre. “Anthropology of white supremacy.” American anthropologist 122.1 (2020): 65-75.
Roediger, David R. “The wages of whiteness: Race and the making of the American working class.” Class: The Anthology (2017): 41-55.