The Impoverishing Myth of White Privilege

Contrary to popular belief, racism in America was designed to keep the white man down. The horrific effects of racism on people of color remain an intentional side-effect.

Many of the pilgrims were “poor vagrants, criminals, and rebels against the state,” forced to migrate to the Americas and work for free. Poor children found living on the streets of England were regularly rounded up, forced into slavery, and shipped over to the colonies in America. The ruling classes referred to these poor white citizens as masterless men and waste persons, complaining of the crime and filth caused by these so-called worthless human beings.

The Elizabethan Poor Laws made it illegal to be poor and unemployed, so any child could be captured from the slums and enslaved as an ‘apprentice’ or ‘indentured servant.’ They were beaten, raped, forced to work, and murdered without consequence.

When these poor whites arrived in the Americas, their masters continued these ruthless traditions. Whenever they got the chance, these white slaves, and their non-white counterparts, would runaway. The vast size of the Americas, combined with the extreme ethnic and linguistic diversity, made it impossible to tell who was a runaway slave, and who was not. Prosperous communities of former slaves of all ethnic and religious backgrounds emerged across the New World. This was a great thing for runaway slaves, not so great for the ‘landowners’ hoping to benefit from forced labor.

After yet another rebellion where a coalition of ethnic groups fought to toss off the chains of colonial oppression, the ruling elite invented race to stabilize the system. Skin color of course existed before this, but there were no ideas of united races. An individual was Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Akan, Mohawk, Yoruba, etc. In this new system, those of African descent were placed at the very bottom of society to pacify white slaves who made up the majority of the forced laborers.

White slaves continued living in horrid conditions, but now had someone to look down upon. These ruling classes went on to build incredible wealth while white laborers remained, and still remain, extremely poor. Rather than improving life for poor white laborers, all the ruling classes had to do to keep poor white people pacified and working hard was to treat black people worse and worse. This sadistic schadenfreude is all poor white Americans have to show for their complicity in systemic racism.

By shifting the narrative to race, wealthy whites successfully convinced poor whites that so long as the people at the top of society were exclusively white, then life was good. This of course was not true. Poor white Americans toiled right next to slaves for hundreds of years. As industrial towns began to emerge, poor white laborers lived in the same dilapidated shacks as poor blacks. Whites were given preferential treatment but remained extremely poor relative to the wealth that existed in the United States.

White Americans remain some of the poorest people in the rich world. 20 million non-Hispanic white Americans live in poverty, making up more than half of the poor population in the United States. Adult white Americans have an incarceration rate of 678 per 100,000. That means that if white American men were their own country, they would have the highest percentage of their population in cages compared to any other country in the world.

A white man in America is 4.5X more likely to be in jail than a man in the UK, and 10X more likely to be in jail than a man in Japan.

White Americans face one of the highest incarceration rates in the world

Poor white people even get shot and killed by the police officers they love so much. Those officers then get no jail time and a pension because no one cares if you kill a poor white person.

How could white men, who absolutely love freedom, be ok with being incarcerated this much? Racism. Black and Hispanic Americans are incarcerated even more, therefore pulling the wool over the eyes of white men about their gross lack of freedom.

A white child in the United States is 4x more likely to live in poverty than a child in Denmark. How could Americans be ok with this? Racism. They aren’t as poor as black and Hispanic Americans, so they are happy with their poverty.

It’s about time that white Americans look up and realize that they have been had, been took, hoodwinked, bamboozled! Race was not and is not designed to oppress poor minorities. No, minorities are just collateral damage in the war by rich white people on poor white people.

Poor white people are openly called deplorables, white trash, and hillbillies, publicly ridiculed as “poor, illiterate, and strung out.

“Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. You’re just as poor as Negroes. You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The real struggle is for money. So many white Americans truly believe that we are in a post-racial society because they can’t imagine how the lives they are living can be called “privileged.” The white privilege they have been promised is a centuries-old lie. They will remain poor and oppressed until they wake up and realize who it is that is keeping them down. White privilege is an economic toll on an increasingly poor white society, compensated for only in the form of a sadistic schadenfreude.

The identifying feature of a billionaire is wealth, not whiteness. Until working-class white people realize this, they will sheepishly continue oppressing themselves with racism. We can easily eliminate poverty in the United States as soon as we help poor white America take the shackles off their minds.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Darryl Finkton Jr.

Founder of “End Poverty. Make Trillions.” Community Organizer, Investor, Critical Thinker, Scientist, Author. Neurobiology (Harvard), Public Health (Oxford).